Panetta in Kabul for pullout, transition talks
KABUL (PAN): US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Kabul on Tuesday on a surprise visit for talks with the top American commander and senior Afghan officials on the current situation in the country, a source said.
The defense secretary would meet International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander Gen. John Allen, American troops and US embassy staff during his two-day stay in Afghanistan, a security official told Pajhwok Afghan News.
At his meetings with President Hamid Karzai and Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, the secretary would discuss the ongoing process of security transition and training of Afghan army and police, said the official, who did not want to be named.
US plans to pull out 10,000 of combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the current year would also figure at talks, the source said, suggesting strained relations between Washington and Islamabad would also come up for discussion.
Islamabad closed a key supply route for NATO-led troops and ordered the United States to vacate the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province in the wake of ISAF air raids that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Mohmand tribal region on November 26.
Before his arrival in Kabul, Panetta told the journalists accompanying him that the levels of violence in Afghanistan had been reduced. "They (foreign troops) have been able to secure some of the key areas in Afghanistan," he said.
Commenting on Islamabad's role in the war on terror, the former CIA director said: "It's been acknowledged several times that we can't win the war in Afghanistan without being able to win in our relationship with Pakistan."It's going to be important that we continue to reach out to Pakistan."
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