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Hagel, on surprise visit to Afghanistan, says long war has put Afghans on right track

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Gen. John F. Campbell (R) after arriving on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Gen. John F. Campbell (R) after arriving on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted after arriving on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted after arriving on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 photo, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel waves as he boards his aircraft to departing on an overseas trip at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO

    In this Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 photo, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel waves as he boards his aircraft to departing on an overseas trip at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Speaking in Afghanistan Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, Secretary Hagel said American photojournalist Luke Somers "and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered" by al-Qaida militants during a failed U.S. rescue attempt. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool) POOL PHOTO  (The Associated Press)

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has arrived in Afghanistan and says he believes Afghans will prevail against a surge in Taliban violence in the capital.

Hagel's unannounced visit on Saturday to Kabul is likely his last as Pentagon chief. He submitted his resignation Nov. 24 and President Barack Obama announced Friday that he will nominate Ashton Carter to succeed Hagel.

In remarks to reporters flying with him from Washington, Hagel was strikingly upbeat about prospects for long-term stability in the country whose previous Taliban rulers sheltered al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Hagel will meet with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and with top US military commanders.