Gates was scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Coalition forces are battling Taliban fighters around the town of Marjah in southern Helmand province.
Dubbed Operation Moshtarak, the offensive was launched in February by an international coalition of 15,000 troops, including Afghans, Americans, Britons, Canadians, Danes and Estonians.
Gates told reporters that he was going to Afghanistan to “get an update on the campaign, not only in Marjah but the next steps as we look to spring, summer and fall.”
Long a bastion of pro-Taliban sentiment and awash with the opium used to fund the insurgency, the Marjah region has been known as the heroin breadbasket of Afghanistan and as a place where the Taliban had set up a shadow government.
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