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KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in the Afghan capital for a brief, unannounced visit to meet with Afghanistan’s defense minister and get an update on the progress of the mission from the war’s top commander, Gen. John Allen.

Taliban attacks have increased in recent weeks, Panetta said, citing a May attack in Kabul that combined a car bomb with suicide bombers and was “much more organized than what we’ve seen before.”

“The level of violence is still down compared to [previous years],” he said, “but I think it’s important to try to make sure we are aware of the kind of attacks they’re going to engage in, particularly as we go through the rest of the summer.”

As U.S. forces begin drawing down in Afghanistan, Panetta said he wants to make sure they do so “in a way that maintains the security of the areas that will be involved.”

Panetta’s fourth trip to Afghanistan as secretary of defense caps off a trip throughout Asia in which he urged India to take a larger economic role in Afghanistan and work to improve relations with Pakistan.

The United States is still working with Pakistan to reopen supply routes, Panetta said, and American officials remain hopeful that Islamabad will take action against the Haqqani network that has thusfar found safe haven in Pakistan.

Pakistan is “important to the stability of this region,” Panetta said in New Delhi on Wednesday, “and for that reason, both the United States and India and others are going to have to try to do everything we can … to do what is possible to improve the relationship.”

Panetta will also pay tribute to Ryan Crocker, who is completing his tour as ambassador to Afghanistan.

hladj@stripes.osd.milTwitter: @jhlad


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