U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter holds a news conference on his first overseas trip since starting the Pentagon job last Tuesday, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ernst, Pool)
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Carter wrapped up two days in the war zone by consulting with U.S. and Afghan commanders at Kandahar air field, an important hub in the network of U.S. advisory posts that are due to close before year's end.On Saturday, Carter met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and said afterward that Obama is considering whether to slow the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals this year and next.U.S. commanders are known to prefer to keep the Kandahar operation open at least through the peak fighting season this summer.Earlier, Carter addressed a gathering of about 100 U.S. soldiers at Kandahar and thanked them for their work with the Afghan army. Carter did not say whether he was bothered by the briefing. He said the key point was that the operation in Mosul should not begin until the Iraqi forces are prepared to succeed, with the U.S. military playing an unspecified support role.
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