- Created on Thursday, 07 June 2012 14:25
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US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit.
He told reporters he wanted to hear an assessment from commanders about a recent rise in insurgent attacks and plans for troop withdrawals.
Mr Panetta said that while insurgent attacks appeared better organised, the overall level of violence was reduced compared with previous years.
On Wednesday, suicide attackers killed more than 20 civilians in Kandahar.
Mr Panetta's visit to Afghanistan comes at the end of his week-long trip to Asia to explain a new US military strategy, announced in January, that calls for a shift in strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
"I think it's important to make sure we are aware of the kind of attacks [the Taliban] are going to engage in... as we go through the rest of the summer," Mr Panetta told reporters before leaving India on Wednesday.
The defence secretary said that he wanted to get an assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan from top US commander Gen John Allen.
Speaking to troops gathered at the airport in Kabul, Mr Panetta said that "we have every responsibility to defend ourselves and... we've got to put pressure on Pakistan to take them on as well".
Finishing off his visit to India on Wednesday, Mr Panetta said that Delhi and Washington should deepen their defence co-operation to provide more stability in the Asian region.
He described India as a key ally in improving the security situation in Afghanistan.