US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday said that Washington would keep 1,000 more troops than the originally planned number in the first few months of 2015 in Afghanistan.
Earlier in the day, Hagel arrived in Kabul on an unannounced trip -- days after President Barack Obama nominated one of his former deputies as defense secretary. Hagel resigned under pressure on Nov. 24.
Earlier, US president Obama had announced 9,800 troops would stay in Afghanistan after the end of 2014. Of them 1,800 will take part in training Afghan National Security forces (ANSF) and the rest fight against possible terrorist threats.
At a joint news conference with President Ashraf Ghani, Hagel said the US would retain up to 10,800 troops for the first few months of next year before restarting the drawdown, which is scheduled to come down to 5,500 by the end of 2015.
The visiting dignitary said would be consulting with the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, on the troop drawdown and other issues.
On his final visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, Hagel hoped Afghans would successfully deal with increasing Taliban attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in the country.
It should not come as a surprise that the Taliban were still capable of launching significant attacks in the heavily-fortified capital, he remarked.
The insurgents were trying to disrupt the new government and undermine confidence in it, Hagel said: "I’m confident of Afghan security forces continuing to meet these challenges.”
He praised the sacrifices of ANSF in achieving durable peace and stability to enable the people to live a prosperous life. He promised US had provided Afghanistan $8 billion in civilian aid from 2012 to 2015.
Warning against drawing comparisons between Iraq and Afghanistan, he claimed a majority of Afghans wanted American troops to stay.