Hagel Makes First Afghan Trip as Defense Secretary

Mike O'Brien
Posted: 03/08/2013

Chuck Hagel touched down in Afghanistan on Friday in his first foreign trip as Defense Secretary -- and promptly reminded U.S. soldiers that the fight is not over yet.

In his address to troops in Kabul, he said he thought giving Afghans full control of their country's security by the end of 2014 was a "clear and achievable" goal.

But he added: "We are still at war, and many of you will continue to experience the ugly reality of combat and the heat of battle."

Mr. Hagel will also see the fragile union at first hand when he meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who recently ordered a scaling back of American military activity.

Relationships were strained when a NATO air strike requested by Afghan forces killed 10 people, including five children and four women, on February 13.

That led to Mr. Karzai banning his forces from requesting foreign air strikes, Reuters reports.

Two weeks later he ordered an end to all special forces operations in the province of Wardak after various allegations were made against U.S. special forces soldiers.

Nevertheless Mr. Hagel said he is looking forward to discussions with the Afghan leader.

Asked whether he will touch on that subject, he said:"I look forward to talking with the president about many issues. And that, certainly, I'm sure will be one of them."

He also took time to honor the commitment of American troops in Afghanistan, telling soldiers: "As I begin my time as secretary of defense, I look forward to hearing from you, seeing this war from your vantage point and working to make sure you get what you need to finish the fight and come home safe."

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Mike O'Brien
Posted: 03/08/2013