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Panetta Says U.S. 'Winning' In Afghanistan


U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta upon his arrival to Kabul on December 13.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has told troops during a visit to Afghanistan that the U.S.-led coalition is "winning" the fight in that war-torn country.

Panetta addressed U.S. troops based in Paktika Province, which shares a long, porous border with Pakistan's tribal belt troubled by Taliban militancy.

He was scheduled to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul later in the day.

Panetta arrived in Afghanistan on December 13 for the surprise two-day visit.

Washington is starting to withdraw combat troops and hand over security to Afghan forces, who are due to take full control by the end of 2014.

Arriving in Kabul, Panetta said he believed 2011 would mark a "turning point" in Afghanistan where "troops have been able to reduce the levels of violence."

But the United Nations and other groups say violence across the country is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban from power in late 2001.

compiled from agency reports