February 7th, 2008 08:08 EST
Condoleezza Rice drops in on Karzai in Kandahar
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband have made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold.
Rice and Miliband met with NATO commanders and troops Thursday, at an air base in the southern city of Kandahar, before heading back to the country's capital, Kabul, to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Rice said she made the visit to Kandahar to see an area that has been very active. Miliband said the region's iconic status in the history and position of Afghanistan made it a good choice to visit outside the capital.
Both leaders thanked the NATO troops for their service, with Miliband saying he would defend their mission as countries debate their deployment in Afghanistan.
Earlier, the U.S. secretary of state told reporters there needs to be more Afghan contributions to the coalition force fighting the insurgents. Rice says NATO forces are facing a "real test" in Afghanistan, and stressed that alliance members must share the burden of combat against the Taliban.
The U.S. and British secretaries' visit comes as NATO defense ministers meet in Lithuania today to discuss the alliance's deployment in Afghanistan.
U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch troops have most of the NATO combat burden in the most perilous southern regions of Afghanistan.
Canada has threatened to pull its troops from the country next year unless other allies send reinforcements.
Last week, Germany spurned a call by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to send forces to the south. German officials say their country's troop presence is restricted by parliamentary mandate to northern areas of Afghanistan. German officials Wednesday said they will send 200 additional troops to the north.