US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today. His visit comes at a time when US relations are strained with Pakistan over the Raymond Davis incident, and with Afghanistan over the accidental killing of civilians. US would want to maintain pressure on Al Qaeda and related extremist groups in the region, and to prevent them from taking advantage of the unfolding unrest in Middle East and North Africa.
US Secretary of Defense underscored two important points during the visit; US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan is expected to go ahead as planned in 2014, and that some troops would still be needed in the country for supporting anti-terrorist operations, providing training, and in advisory roles. However, he clarified US is not interested building permanent bases in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, US envoy Marc Grossman was in Pakistan to soothe US-Pakistan relations. This is his first visit to the country since his predecessor Richard Holbrooke passed away.