Panetta Visits Afghanistan

    Image #: 14442590    (110609) -- WASHINGTON, June 9, 2011 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, June 9, 2011. Panetta has been nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to succeed Robert Gates as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense.  (Xinhua/Zhang Jun) (zw)       XINHUA /LANDOV

    Zhang Jun, Xinhua / Landov

    Newly minted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was promoted from CIA director on July 1, arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, on a surprise trip Saturday. He will meet with U.S. troops and their head commander, David Petraeus, who is leaving his post later this month to succeed Panetta as head of the CIA. The two will likely discuss the troop withdrawal that is set to begin this month, though no details have been confirmed. Panetta is also scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an attempt to smooth over strained relations. He told reporters en route with him to the country that the U.S. is "within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda," and that it has identified key leaders within the terrorist group, specifically Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's designated successor, who the U.S. believes is living in western Pakistan.

    Read it at Associated Press