Winding up a nine-day tour of Asia, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in Kabul to get an assessment of the progress in the 'war on terror' from top military commanders.
On his fourth trip to Afghanistan, US Defense Minister Leon Panetta is scheduled to get a briefing from the top commander of the NATO-led forces, Gen. John Allen. He is also meeting US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Wrapping up his two-day trip to India on Wednesday, Panetta told reporters in New Delhi that he wanted to see how confident Gen. Allen was regarding NATO's ability to confront the threat from the insurgents "as we go through the rest of summer." In Afghanistan, NATO faces the double threat from the Taliban as well as from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network operating from safe havens in Pakistan.
Panetta's visit comes amid a recent increase in insurgent attacks, some of which were "much more organized than we've seen before," Panetta said. Just a day before his arrival in Afghanistan, a suicide bombing in the southern province of Kandahar killed 22 people and wounded at least 50 others.
Pressure on Pakistan
During his tour of Asia, Panetta has expressed frustration with Islamabad regarding its efforts to combat militancy.
"We have every responsibility to defend ourselves and we are going to make very clear that we are prepared to take them on and we've got to put pressure on Pakistan to take them on as well," Panetta told troops gathered at Kabul airport on Thursday.
Panetta's trip to Asia comes amid a recent increase in US drone attacks on insurgents near the Afghan-Pakistani border. Drone attacks are widely frowned upon in Pakistan and have contributed to a rise in anti-US sentiment there. Nonetheless, Panetta said terrorist networks, such as Haqqani militants "are our enemies and we are going to do whatever we can to confront them(...)"
Author: Arun Chowdhury (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Sarah Berning