The commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan spent Christmas Eve visiting U.S. troops Tuesday at bases across the mountainous region to bring them holiday greetings and gifts for a few lucky soldiers.

Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, who commands troops in the volatile east near the Pakistani border, told troops that they were "bringing a gift to the Afghan people - you've given them an opportunity. Now it's up to them to take it."

McConville thanked the troops and told them that "a lot of Americans will wake up tomorrow and have a peaceful day, and that's thanks to you." The general also delivered presents in the form of special Army coins to troops who'd completed three or more deployments.

The U.S.-led NATO coalition is rapidly drawing down its numbers in Afghanistan ahead of the end of its mission next year. - AP