Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Acting US Defense Secretary makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Afghan MP I'm very worried for women's rights Acting US Defense Secretary makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan
Patty Aguilar | 13 February, 2019, 13:07

A top Pentagon official took an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on February 11 to meet with us commanders and Afghan leaders amid a renewed push for peace with the Taliban as the Trump administration seeks to end the 17-year-war-the longest in the history of the United States. Kabul is also concerned that a sharp drawdown of USA forces could lead to chaos in the region.

The statement said that "the trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects United States national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country's future".

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday offered the Taliban the possibility of opening an office in Afghanistan but the proposal was swiftly spurned by the group that is determined to keep his government out of accelerating peace talks.

He also met his Afghan counterpart Asadullah Khalid in Kabul and reassured him that the U.S. military would not abandon Afghan soldiers in their battle against the militants.

"We are conducting (military) operations in different provinces and the Taliban has sustained heavy casualties", Jawed said. It has also refused to negotiate directly with the Ghani's government, calling it a "puppet" of the West. So far, though, he noted that the Taliban have been unwilling to take this step, arguing that the government is illegitimate.

Khalilzad told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday that he hopes a final deal can be clinched before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

The Taliban wants all foreign troops withdrawn from Afghanistan. The unannounced visit is the first for the acting secretary of defense, Pat Shanahan.

Afghan and U.S. forces have increased airstrikes against Taliban positions throughout Afghanistan in the past several months.

Afghanistan and neighbouring countries are concerned about the effect of a sudden withdrawal of United States forces on the region. The US is increasingly confident it will soon be able to withdraw its troops from Syria.

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"The presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability and then any type of sizing is done in a coordinated and disciplined manner", he said.

He said it was crucial Kabul, whose representatives were not at the talks in Qatar, was involved in discussions over the future of Afghanistan.

As the United States mulls withdrawal from Afghanistan, recent media coverage has been punctuated with defeatism.

Mr. Shanahan told reporters earlier that he had no instructions from Washington to begin a withdrawal.

Alokozay said it is not clear whether Afghan or U.S. forces conducted the strikes.

Officials have expressed concern that Afghan security forces, already stretched thin, could crumble if USA troops leave.

"What we see here today is how capability is being generated and the commitment of special forces to fighting the Taliban", Shanahan said.

Shanahan's views on the Afghan war are not widely known.

Afghanistan's highly regarded special forces units suffered increasingly heavy casualties past year as the Taliban mounted major assaults on provincial centers including Ghazni city and Farah city in the southwest.

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