New U.S. secretary of defense visits troops in Afghanistan

Panetta's advice to incoming Defense Secretary
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Story highlights

  • Ashton Carter was confirmed February 12 as U.S. secretary of defense
  • He will visit U.S. troops and Afghan officials during his two-day stay

(CNN)The new U.S. secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday morning and plans to meet with U.S. troops and Afghan leaders.

Carter recently took over as secretary of defense, replacing Chuck Hagel. The Senate confirmed Carter on February 12.
    "The reason for this destination, Afghanistan, in my very first week in office as secretary of defense is because this is where we still have 10,000 American troops and they come first in my mind always," Carter told reporters on the plane before it landed in Kabul.
    On Saturday, Carter will meet with U.S. military leaders, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the nation's CEO, before going to Bagram to meet U.S. troops.
    He will visit U.S. troops in Kandahar on Sunday and then leave for Kuwait, where he'll meet American military leaders, troops and Kuwaiti leaders. He leaves Kuwait on Tuesday morning.
    Carter said he wants to better understand America's role in Afghanistan.
    "I have seen reports of all kinds giving assessment of how things are going in Afghanistan and I'm just coming back into the government now and trying to wrap my mind around it," he said.
    When asked about ISIS activity in Afghanistan, Carter replied: "I've seen the reports of people essentially rebranding themselves as ISIL here in Afghanistan as has occurred in other places. The reports I've seen still have them in small numbers and aspirational."
    Carter, 60, is a respected technocrat who served in a number of high level positions at the Pentagon. He holds degrees in theoretical physics and medieval history from Yale and Oxford.
    Hagel, a former Republican senator, resigned after less than two years on the job when he was unable to fully mesh with President Barack Obama's national security team at the White House.