Acting US Defense Secretary makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 11, 2019

Khalilzad's trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue, the statement said.

It was unclear whether the group had already left at the time of the statement.

The emphasis on bringing "all Afghan parties together" appeared crucial.

The US has also been calling for direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government - especially after Moscow hosted a conference of high-profile Afghan delegates, which featured Taliban representatives but lacked officials from Kabul, who chose to boycott the talks.

The US envoy's most recent talks were in Doha late last month where the two sides met for six days.

At an event in Washington on February 8, Khalilzad told an audience that he expected a final deal could be reached before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

In December, the Trump administration ordered the military to start devising plans to withdraw roughly 7,000 personnel from Afghanistan in the coming months. But Khalilzad emphasized that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground.

Afghanistan has suffered almost constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and a United States invasion following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The correspondence came after Trump accused Pakistan of "doing nothing" despite receiving "billions of dollars" in aid.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan landed in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit Monday amid increasing uncertainty about the future of the longest-running US war in history.

Those talks have provided a glimmer of hope of an end to the war. Over the past few weeks, a United States delegation has been engaged in talks with the Afghan officials trying to prepare for a USA pullout.

Shanahan will meet General Scott Miller, the top USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander in Afghanistan, during his visit.

Shanahan said from his plane that he had no orders to "step down our forces in Afghanistan", but was tasked with supporting ongoing peace talks between Washington and the Taliban. "I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability".

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