US acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan (file photo)
US acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan (file photo)

US acting Defence Secy arrives in Afghanistan on surprise visit

ANI | Updated: Feb 11, 2019 13:43 IST

Kabul [Afghanistan], Feb 11 (ANI): Patrick Shanahan, the US' acting Defence Secretary, made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Monday.
"It is important that the Afghan government is involved in discussions regarding Afghanistan," Shanahan was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying upon arrival in the war-torn country.
Shanahan will hold talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the visit, in a bid to chalk out a peace deal to end the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
Stressing the importance of the visit, the acting US Defence Secretary underlined that Washington has important security interests in the region and wanted to hear out from army commanders stationed in different parts of Afghanistan.
Last December, Shanahan took over from James Mattis, after the latter tendered his resignation over policy differences with US President Donald Trump.
On February 8, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been making a whirlwind trip to countries including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and UAE for securing a peace process since his appointment last September, expressed hope that the Taliban reaches an agreement with Washington before the Afghan presidential elections slated to be held on July 20.
Khalilzad had said that the Taliban would guarantee that Afghanistan will never be used as a base for terrorism in return for a full American withdrawal from the country and that Taliban concessions must include a ceasefire and agreement to hold talks with the Afghan government.
The US promised the Taliban that it would remove half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, said an official from Taliban's political office in Doha last week.
"Yes, the Americans told us that half of their troops will be withdrawn starting the beginning of February until the end of April," Sputnik quoted Abdul Salam Hanafi, a part of the Taliban delegation in Moscow for intra-Afghan talks, as saying.
During his State of the Union address on February 5, Trump advocated the “progress” in negotiations, saying that "it means we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism.”
However, the Taliban does not consider the withdrawal being dependent on the American conditions for a ceasefire or direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, signalling that Washington's demands may be far-fetched. (ANI)

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