Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived for an unannounced visit on Monday evening to attend a farewell dinner with the top IDF officers before he steps down on September 30.

It was Mullen’s sixth visit to Israel since he was appointed chairman of the joint chiefs in 2007.

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He came to Israel from Afghanistan where he participated in the change of command over American and coalition forces on Monday morning. Gen. John Allen took over command from Gen. David Petraeus, who is retiring from the military to become the new director of the CIA.

Mullen’s trip to Israel was kept quiet and did not appear on the official schedule of his sweep through Asia that was available on the Pentagon’s website. His visit included talks with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and a dinner with top IDF generals.

Mullen met with Gantz’s predecessor Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi almost 20 times over the past four years and even attended Ashkenazi’s retirement party in February. He knows Gantz from the time the IDF chief served as military attaché to Washington and the two men have spoken a number of time since Gantz was appointed chief of General Staff in February.

The IDF said that Mullen worked over the years to strengthen military ties between Israel and the United States and maintained a “brave relationship” with his Israeli counterparts.

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