Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan Tuesday to meet with the country’s leaders and visit with U.S. forces who are battling a resilient Taliban.
Carter’s trip comes a week after President Barack Obama announced 8,400 troops will remain in Afghanistan through the end of 2017. The number was higher than the 5,500 troops originally planned.
“The security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious,” Obama said. “The Taliban remains a threat. I strongly believe it is in our national security interest … that we give our Afghan partners the best opportunities to succeed.”
Carter, who was in Baghdad on Monday, flew into Bagram Air Base near Kabul and later met with Resolute Support Mission Commander Gen. John Nicholson.
The secretary also met with Afghan Minister of Defense Abdullah Khan Habibi and Interior Minister Major Gen. Taj Mohammed Jahid.
Carter then headed to the Presidential Palace for a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Carter also will meet with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul before heading back to Bagram to meet U.S. troops.
After a day-long visit, Carter flew to the United Arab Emirates.
In Baghdad on Monday, Carter announced the U.S. is sending 560 additional troops to Iraq as part of the stepped-up fight against the “cancer” of ISIS.
Most of the troops will be stationed at the recently recaptured Qarayyah airfield, which is about 25 miles south of Mosul and will be a key staging area for the upcoming U.S. and Iraqi effort to retake that city from the terror group.