Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Kabul on Saturday on what is supposed to be his final trip to Afghanistan to help oversee the transition to a more limited troop presence here after the end of the year.
Throughout his time as defense secretary, Mr. Hagel pushed for a continuing troop presence after the end of 2014, when the current combat mission ends. President Barack Obama has approved that plan, but Mr. Hagel’s ouster from the top job at the Pentagon means managing the new mission will fall to Ashton Carter, nominated Friday to be the next defense secretary.
The Taliban have pressed a recent offensive in parts of the country’s south and east, but Mr. Hagel and other officials have tried to play down their efforts to gain ground. In an news conference Friday while en route to Afghanistan, Mr. Hagel only acknowledged that there were “pockets of resurgence” by the Taliban.
Mr. Hagel’s visit also follows an outburst of violence that has gripped Kabul. A senior defense official said those high-profile Taliban attacks were designed “to create the perception of instability.”
A year ago, Mr. Hagel visited Afghanistan and spurned an invitation from then-President Hamid Karzai to meet after the Afghan leader refused to sign a bilateral security agreement. But on Saturday, Mr. Hagel had a full range of meetings on his schedule, including with the country’s new leader, President Ashraf Ghani, and the government’s chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah.
(For the rest of the article about Hagel and Abdullah Abdullah, click the link. )