The visit comes at a difficult juncture in the Western coalition’s efforts to shift more security responsibilities to Afghan forces so the combat mission can end in December 2014.
The post-2014 mission is expected to focus on counterterrorism and advising Afghan security forces.
Before flying to Afghanistan, Panetta spoke to about 100 U.S. service members inside an aircraft hangar at a desert base west of Kuwait City. He thanked them for their service and emphasized that the U.S. is winding down its involvement in lengthy wars.
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