The U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter met with U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan on Friday, as the United States seeks to help local forces beat back a surge in Taliban attacks and contain an emerging threat from militants linked to the Islamic State.
Carter touched down at Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangahar province — east of Kabul along the Pakistan border — where an array of armed groups pose a major test to Afghan forces as the bulk of foreign troops withdraw.
It is Carter’s first visit since President Obama announced in October that the United States would keep a force of 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2017, abandoning his earlier ambition to withdraw all U.S. troops before he leaves office.
The Pentagon is also slowing the pace of troop reductions next year, a recognition of the ongoing reliance of Afghan troops on foreign military power, and of the continued insurgent threat that a 14-year U.S. and NATO operation has been unable to extinguish.
During his visit, Carter is not expected to hold talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, but will meet in Nangahar with Acting Defense Minister Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.