Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will leave Thursday on a trip to Afghanistan and nearby Central Asian countries.
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says the trip will give Mr. Rumsfeld a chance to visit with and thank U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. "We currently have some 6,000 plus troops in Afghanistan, and for seven months they have done some extraordinary work," she said. "The secretary is very much looking forward to seeing them and thanking them for their efforts.
Ms. Clarke says Mr. Rumsfeld will also use the trip to visit unspecified countries in the region to thank officials for their support in the anti-terrorism war. "He will also visit with some of our coalition partners in the region," said Victoria Clark. "It has been the strength of those coalitions, their willingness to participate, that has contributed so much to our success thus far. So he is looking forward to that."
This will be Mr. Rumsfeld's second visit to Afghanistan and his fourth to the region. The Pentagon is not saying which other countries he will visit before returning to Washington next Monday night.
However sources say he is expected to stop in Moscow on his way back home to meet Russian officials for talks on planned nuclear arms cuts.