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Media Availability with Secretary Hagel in Jalalabad, Afghanistan

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
March 09, 2013

            PRESS SECRETARY GEORGE LITTLE: The secretary has time for two or three questions. 

            Q: Mr. Secretary, has the discussion come up about the special operations forces being moved out of Wardak? Has that come up in your meetings with commanders? And how confident are you that something -- some agreement will be reached in the next two days before the deadline tomorrow or Monday? 

            SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think, as you know, General Dunford is working on this, and our generals are. And I -- I feel confident that we'll be able to work this out. 

            Q: Mr. Secretary, did you know --

             Q: What gives you the --

             Q: -- there was a car bomb this morning attack while you were in Kabul? The Taliban said that this was a message to you that they can hit wherever they want, whenever they want. There was a second car bomb later in the day, 20 Afghans dead. What's your message to the Taliban? Does this send a message that they're coming back?

             SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, let me express my sympathy -- sincere sympathy to the families of the victims. I know about the attacks, and I'm very sorry.

             We're at war. War didn't stop. And we have a war here. And that's just the reality. And we're going to continue to work with the Afghans and our coalition partners to fight that war and to assure that the Afghan people have every ability and right to develop their own country their own way in a democracy.

             Q: Do you have a message to the Taliban?

             Q: What was your --

             SEC. HAGEL: Yes?

             Q: What was your reaction when you heard the boom?

             SEC. HAGEL: I'm sorry?

             Q: What was your reaction when you first heard the boom?

             SEC. HAGEL: I wasn't sure what it was. I was in a briefing. But we're in a war zone. I've been in a war. You know, so -- you shouldn't be surprised when a bomb goes off or there's an explosion.

             All right. One more question?

             MR. LITTLE: One more question.

             Q: Sir, yesterday you said when you spoke on the plane that there were challenges and concerns. Today you've had a couple of briefings with the top officials here. Can you articulate what those challenges are and concerns are as we transition out of the war to giving the responsibility to the Afghans?

             SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think the biggest challenge is just the overall responsible and effective transition of our combat troops out and in all of the activities and the parts of the mission that the United States has led on over the last 12 years. Those are all challenges. Of course they are. But they're challenges that we will manage, and that'll be in partnership with our coalition partners and with the Afghan forces. 

             MR. LITTLE: Thank you all very much.

             SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

             MR. LITTLE: Appreciate it.

             SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

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