Panetta wants Pakistan to secure border
SHARAN (PAN): US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday visited American troops in the southeastern province of Paktika, bordering Pakistan's troubled tribal region of South Waziristan, an official said.
A day after his arrival in Kabul on an unannounced trip, Panetta told troops Pakistan should take more steps to secure its side of the border, the Paktika governor's spokesman, Mukhlis Afghan, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
According to Afghan, Panetta painted an optimistic picture of the situation in Afghanistan. However, he reiterated the US call for Pakistan to prevent militants from conducting cross-border incursions.
Speaking at a forward operating base of coalition troops in Sharan, Panetta said the US was winning the war in Afghanistan. "We are winning this tough conflict,"
Despite challenges and difficulties, the secretary hoped that they would ensure the Taliban sanctuaries were eradicated forever and Al Qaeda stopped from regrouping.
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 an Afghan 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 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.
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