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Top U.S. Commander Arrives In Afghanistan

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey
The top U.S. military commander has arrived in Afghanistan on an unexpected visit.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, is expected to meet U.S. and allied commanders and consult with Afghan officials on winding down the U.S. military presence in the country..

Thomas Collins, an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman in Afghanistan, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that Dempsey "will be talking about the state of the Afghan national security forces," how they are continuing to develop, and if there were any other particular areas that needed to be discussed.

He added that the discussions would be "private" but that they "will all be security related."

In his meetings, Dempsey is expected to assess the timing and pace of U.S. troop withdrawals this year and next, as well as the rate of improvement among Afghan security forces.

Among those with whom Dempsey is expected to meet is General Joseph Dunford, the new overall commander of coalition forces.

Collins told reporters that the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staffs also will visit U.S. troops in the field.

"Even if it is his second trip to Afghanistan, he will be visiting troops in the field but we can't discuss those locations," Collins said.

Last August, insurgents' rockets hit General Dempsey's plane as it was parked at the Bagram airfield and wounded two maintenance crew, according to officials.

Dempsey flew out of the country unharmed using another plane.

President Barack Obama has not announced how many American troops he intends to keep in Afghanistan after 2014, but it will probably be 9,000 to 10,000. There are now about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a 2010 peak of some 100,000.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Radio Free Afghanistan
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