Hagel: Unlike Iraq, Afghan Leaders 'Want Us There' For Support

| by Edward Arnold

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made his fourth and last visit to Afghanistan this weekend. During his trip, he met with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and US military troops in Gamberi.

The trip was to reiterate US foreign policy in Afghanistan and to make sure both sides were on the same page moving forward. President Obama's policy toward Afghanistan is to assist and train the Afghan army over the next two years as we systematically withdrawal the majority of our troops from the region.

Secretary Hagel said that our strategy in the region “is to assist a country, specifically security forces of a country, build their own capability, build their own capacity to defend themselves, secure their country, allow their country opportunities of possibility and prosperity.”

Hagel announced that the military will delay the withdrawal of 1,000 troops until at least a couple months into next year. This will total 10,800 combat troops in the country on a limited regional basis enabling support to the Afghan forces.

“We're committed to preventing Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to threaten the United States, our allies and partners, and the Afghan people,” he said. Hagel added that their is an enormous difference between America's closing efforts in Afghanistan as compared to Iraq.

"They want us here. They want us to help them assist, advise, train," Hagel said. "How we left Iraq was totally different. The Iraqi government did not want us there. The Iraqi people did not want us there."

The secretary made it clear. Our combat role and mission will not change. There is no combat role after this year. Secratary Hagel noted, “American personnel will always have the right and the capacity to defend themselves against attacks.”

President Ghani explained that he will be focusing on reforming Afghan security institutions to “account for every penny of expenditure” centering on “management and leadership, on the capabilities.”

He has started by retiring 15 senior generals in the Afghanistan army.

President Ghani said Afghanistan needs many of the institutions the United States has: “We need governance reform. We need focus on the economy, and especially rule of law, the glue that binds to make our gains enduring.”

Source: Department of Defense, Department of Defense / Photo Credit: WSJ