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BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will visit southern Afghanistan in coming days to meet with Afghan officials and U.S. military leaders, coalition officials announced Monday.

Coalition spokeswoman Navy Lt. Tamara Lawrence said all of the details of Rumsfeld’s visit to Kandahar province have not been finalized, but security personnel have begun making preparations for a stop by Rumsfeld and other high-level Pentagon officials “in the near future.”

The meetings will be to discuss ongoing military Operation Mountain Thrust in the southern region, where coalition and Afghan forces have been fighting Taliban militants. More than 11,000 U.S., British, Canadian and Afghan troops have been active in those efforts.

No public events have been scheduled for the secretary to sit down with troops in the region, but “he also usually tries to meet with them on these types of visits,” Lawrence said.

She could not confirm what day the visit would occur — several military officials around Bagram air base believed it was to have taken place as early as Monday — but she said officials hoped to make the secretary’s remarks available to all troops in the country though the military television networks.

On Monday, Rumsfeld was traveling in Tajikistan. Rumsfeld’s last visit to the country was a surprise stop just before Christmas last year.

On June 28, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Afghanistan to meet with President Hamid Karzai and pledged the United States would stand firm with Afghan troops in the latest fight against the Taliban.


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