KABUL/WASHINGTON DC – Just days after being sworn in, new Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter, touches the most sensitive issue of US-Afghanistan relations, Withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, with an un-announced visit to Kabul on Saturday.
Carter, who was sworn in Tuesday as Pentagon chief, planned to visit Kabul with agenda to see American troops and commanders, meet with Afghan leaders and assess whether U.S. withdrawal plans are too risky to Afghan security.
“We’re looking for success in Afghanistan that is lasting,” Carter told reporters traveling with him.
In an in-flight interview, Carter said he expects to discuss the troop withdrawal plan with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and get his assessment of how the U.S. military can best support the continued development of Afghan forces.
“That’s what I’m here to find out,” he said. “How do things stand now, and what’s the best path forward.”
U.S. forces ended their main combat mission in December 2014 but have remained in smaller numbers to continue training and advising the Afghans and to conduct counterterrorism strikes against extremist groups.
Carter said he also expects to hear Ghani’s views on prospects for peace talks with the Taliban.
Carter said he chose Afghanistan as his first overseas destination “because this is where we still have 10,000 American troops and they come first in my mind, always.”
He said he will meet with Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, as well as Gen. Lloyd Austin, who as head of Central Command has overall responsibility for U.S. military operations in the greater Middle East.
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