Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani walks with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his arrival at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Dec. 6, 2014. Reuters/Mark Wilson/Pool

The U.S. will keep as many as 1,000 more soldiers in Afghanistan than planned, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a surprise visit to Kabul Saturday. In comments made at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Hagel said “10,800 troops, rather than 9,800, could remain in Afghanistan through the end of this year, and for the first few months in 2015,” as reported on his official account at Twitter.

Hagel’s remarks basically confirmed a previously published report that U.S. President Barack Obama recently signed a secret order authorizing an expanded role for U.S. forces in Afghanistan next year. The defense secretary said the additional soldiers were necessary because delays in signing security pacts had had effects on plans to raise troops from other countries, Reuters reported. However, he also indicated an especially violent surge of Taliban attacks in Kabul in the past two weeks highlighted the need for them.

Along this line, a representative of Hagel, who resigned under pressure last week and presumably will be succeeded by former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, tweeted: