U.S. Acting Defense Chief Arrives In Afghanistan On Unannounced Visit

Afghan MP I'm very worried for women's rights

Acting US defense secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on Monday and said it was important the Afghan government is involved in talks, from which it has so far been excluded, to end the 17-year-old war.

Pat Shanahan was in Afghanistan's capital on Monday, meeting with Afghan leaders and American military commanders and diplomats.

The insurgent group claimed last week that the Trump administration had agreed to pull half of the US forces in Afghanistan out of the country in just a couple months.

Shanahan, who is also due to meet General Scott Miller, the top USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander in Afghanistan, told reporters aboard his flight to Kabul that he had no instructions from Washington to begin a withdrawal.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his arrival, Shanahan said he had not received orders to withdraw. "It's not about the USA, it's about Afghanistan", Shanahan said.

Shanahan took over as acting secretary of defence on January 1 after Jim Mattis submitted his resignation in December. He said the U.S.is not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan and will leave if Kabul does not want US troops there, provided that there is no threat to USA national security from Afghanistan, particularly from terrorist groups. Yet he chose instead to add about 3,500 troops in 2017-2018 to bolster the USA effort to train and advise Afghan forces.

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Miller, who previously commanded the elite Joint Special Operations Command, has overseen an increase in the pace of strikes and raids against militant targets, which officials hope will give diplomats leverage in their effort to establish negotiations.

Some in Afghanistan have opposed any peace deal with the Taliban, while the Taliban has so far refused to negotiate with the government in Kabul, calling government officials puppets of the West.

In addition to battling the Taliban, U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan are focused on an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, comprised of foreign fighters largely from Pakistan.

A December Pentagon assessment described the battlefield situation as a continued impasse but said "the combination of military escalation and diplomatic initiative have made a favorable political settlement more likely than at any time in recent memory".

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.

Shanahan's arrival in the war-torn country comes amid ongoing discussions on how to reduce USA troops' presence there.

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According to a statement issued later by Cmdr.

The US envoy said last week that he's hopeful a deal can be reached by July to end the US war in Afghanistan.

"This trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects USA 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", it said.

But Jason H. Campbell, an Afghanistan scholar at the Rand Corp., said securing that kind of a longer-term presence might not be possible if it is not accompanied by a larger effort to continue to fund and support Afghan forces.

Trump has offered no specifics about when he would bring home US troops from Afghanistan but has said progress in negotiations with the Taliban would enable a troop reduction and a "focus on counter-terrorism".

Shanahan will also have to grapple with how much allies will trust him.

'Afghan peace deal before July 20 elections better'
The roots of the conflict in Afghanistan is not only in Afghanistan but also in the broader region. So, the time has come, they say for an inclusive dialogue leading to an inclusive piece, he said.


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