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Hagel talks of challenges in first visit to Afghanistan

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IN FLIGHT - MARCH 7: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks to the media aboard his military aircraft between Andrews Air Force Base and Manas Air Force Base, Kyrgyzstan, en route to Afghanistan, March 7, 2013. Hagel is making his first official trip since being sworn-in as Defense secretary. Getty Images

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By The Associated Press
Friday, March 8, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on Friday for his first visit as Pentagon chief, saying that there are plenty of challenges ahead as NATO hands over the country's security to the Afghans.

“We are still at war,” Hagel said, noting that the United States never intended to stay indefinitely.

“That transition has to be done right, it has to be done in partnership with the Afghans, with our allies,” said Hagel. He plans to talk to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the order expelling U.S. commandos from Wardak Province.

On the day of Hagel's arrival, Defense officials said three men wearing Afghan army uniforms and driving an Afghan army vehicle forced their way onto a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan at midday and opened fire, killing a civilian contractor and wounding U.S. troops.

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