New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter makes an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, saying he wants to ensure ''progress sticks'' as U.S. troops withdraw. Vanessa Johnston reports.
New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrives in Afghanistan. It's his first trip since taking over the job this week. During a news conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani... Carter says the U.S. wants to ensure "lasting" success in Afghanistan -- even as U.S. troops withdraw. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER SAYING: "Our priority now is to make sure this progress sticks. That is why President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President Ghani's security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our draw down for U.S. troops." Obama's current plans call for cutting U.S. troops from about 10,000 to 5,500 by the end of the year. It's drawn sharp criticism from Republicans in Congress who fear a resurgence of sectarian violence in Afghanistan -- -- as happened in Iraq after the U.S. troop withdrawal there. Ghani says whatever Obama's decision, relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan are solid. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AFGHAN PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI SAYING: "As the secretary just noted, our relationship is not defined by the number of troops but by the comprehensive nature of the partners." Carter's unannounced visit comes after Afghanistan's bloodiest year since 2001... ...when the war against Taliban militants began.