UK defense secretary visits Afghanistan

AP News
Posted: Feb 07, 2013 3:17 PM

LONDON (AP) — British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond made an unannounced visit to southern Afghanistan to visit U.K. troops, his ministry said.

He returned home on Thursday after a two-day visit to the country, where he met with new Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi in Kabul and with British personnel at an observation post and patrol base in Helmand province, the ministry said.

Hammond's visit comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari for trilateral talks on Afghanistan's floundering peace and reconciliation process.

Attempts at peace have faltered even as international forces prepare to withdraw from the country in 2014.

British troops form the second-largest NATO contingent fighting to stop the Taliban insurgency ahead of the planned withdrawal.