Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has arrived in Afghanistan in his first trip to the country as defense secretary in a bid to to make his own assessment about America’s longest war as it enters its final stretch.
During his visit to Afghanistan Hagel is expected to meet with commanders and hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose recent orders to curtail military activity underscore an often tense relationship with the 66,000 American forces there.
Before leaving for Kabul on an unannounced visit Hagel told reporters, “I need to better understand what’s going on and make my own assessment and listen to our commanders”.
He said it was his first trip to Afghanistan since a mid-2008 visit with then-Senator Barack Obama during Obama’s campaign for the presidency.
Hagel’s visit to Afghanistan comes amid president Hamid Karzai’s order that U.S. special operations forces leave within two weeks because of allegations that Afghans working with the commandos were involved in abusive behavior and torture.
The order comes despite worries that it could leave the region more vulnerable to al-Qaida and other insurgents. U.S. officials have said they have seen no evidence that American forces were involved in the abuse of Afghan civilians.