Hagel finds Afghan visit "extremely informative"
KABUL (PAN): US defence secretary Chuck Hagel, who left Afghanistan on Monday, found his first trip to the country as Pentagon chief to be extremely informative, a senior US Defense Department official has said.
“He had deep dives with military commanders at all levels and had frank exchanges with Afghan officials,” the official traveling with Hagel on Monday said in a statement issued to reporters.
He stressed the secretary was ready to work with other senior policy makers upon his return to seek ways of deepening engagement with the Afghans. “Some of whom clearly have issues they want resolved.”
"A top priority will be the bilateral security agreement, which Hagel sees as a linchpin of US-Afghan relations in the years ahead," the official said.
During his visit, Hagel held separate meetings with President Hamid Karzai, defence minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi and interior minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang in Kabul.
After his meeting with Karzai on Sunday, Hagel said their meeting featured "clear, direct conversation."
Ahead of his meeting with Hagel, Karzai suggested in a speech that the United States and the Taliban were conspiring to keep the level of violence in Afghanistan high to ensure the continued presence of US troops in the country even after the planned pullout of all NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.
"We did discuss those comments. I told the president it was not true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban in trying to negotiate anything," Hagel told reporters after his meeting with Karzai.
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