Defense Secretary Robert Gates landed in Afghanistan early Tuesday morning local time on an unannounced visit to the war-torn country, according to multiple media outlets.
Gates is the first top U.S. official to travel to Afghanistan since President Barack Obama announced the country's new Afghan strategy last Tuesday. Obama said that he would send 30,000 additional troops to help push back against al Qaeda and Taliban militants seeking to destabilize the country that has also experienced corruption problems within its own central government. The president also said that the troops would begin to draw down in July 2011.
Here is more from the Washington Post:
"A big piece of it, of my conversations especially with the soldiers, will be just to thank them for their service, for their sacrifice and to tell them we are in this thing to win," Gates, speaking to reporters traveling with him, said before his arrival here.
Gates...said he will stress to President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials that the United States will not abandon them as it did in 1989, when the Soviet Union left in defeat. The United States had supported forces fighting the Soviets, but ended its support after Moscow quit the war, paving the way for Taliban rule.
"We are not going to repeat the experience of 1989," Gates said. As U.S. troops begin to depart in favor of trained Afghan forces, developmental and economic aid will continue to flow, he stressed. "We intend to be their partner for a long time to come," Gates said.
Gates's remark that the United States is in the battle in Afghanistan "to win" marked an unusual description of the mission here by an administration official.
Obama has shied away from such expressive language, either in his speech last week announcing the decision to add at least 30,000 troops or when he first announced an Afghanistan strategy in March.