US defence chief Hagel makes surprise visit to Afghanistan after US soldier is freed: Official

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during his flight abroad a U.S. military aircraft on June 1, 2014. United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit on Sunday, following the release of soldier Bowe Be
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during his flight abroad a U.S. military aircraft on June 1, 2014. United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit on Sunday, following the release of soldier Bowe Bergdahl, held hostage by the Taleban for five years, a US defence official said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (AFP) - United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit on Sunday, following the release of soldier Bowe Bergdahl, held hostage by the Taleban for five years, a US defence official said.

Mr Hagel arrived at Bagram Airfield, a vast military base in Kabul controlled by the United States, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five senior Taleban figures held at Guantanamo Bay has been hailed as a breakthrough for peace efforts by a senior member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council.

But it has come under fire from some US lawmakers.Mr Hagel’s trip comes a week after President Barack Obama made a surprise trip to hail the sacrifices of US soldiers in Afghanistan as combat troops prepare to pull out by the end of this year.Upon his return Mr Obama outlined a plan under which a US force will remain in the country until the end of 2016 on a training and counter-terrorism mission – subject to the signing of a long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement.