US Defense Secretary in Afghanistan to Discuss Troop Drawdown

Posted December 12th, 2012 at 6:25 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit that will include talks with President Hamid Karzai.

Panetta, who arrived in Kabul on Wednesday, will consult with Mr. Karzai and top military commanders about U.S. troop levels in the country after the general combat mission ends in 2014.

Earlier Wednesday, while in Kuwait, Panetta said he hoped President Barack Obama would make a decision on troop levels within the next few weeks.

Military officials have called for keeping as many as 15,000 troops in the region after 2014 for training and counterterrorism efforts.

In November, Panetta said the U.S. would need to keep a substantial number of troops in the country to ensure that al-Qaida “never again finds a safe haven.” He did not specify how many troops would be needed to achieve this goal.

In another development, Afghan and coalition forces say they have arrested a Taliban leader who controlled a group of insurgents who had launched attacks on coalition troops and Afghan forces.

Security forces say the unidentified militant leader was involved in planning a suicide attack when he was arrested in Ghazni province on Wednesday.