Kabul, Afghanistan — The Pentagon’s prime official made an unannounced go to to Afghanistan Monday to satisfy with U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders amid a push for peace with the Taliban. Pat Shanahan, the just lately put in appearing secretary of protection, stated he has no orders to cut back the U.S. troop presence, though officers say that is on the prime of the Taliban’s checklist of calls for in exploratory peace negotiations.

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Shanahan, in his first journey in his new position, stated he is inspired that President Trump’s administration is exploring all prospects for ending a 17-year battle, the longest in American historical past.

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However he harassed that peace phrases are for the Afghans to determine.

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Acting U.S. defense secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul
Performing U.S. Protection Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan for unannounced go to on February 11, 2019

IDREES ALI / REUTERS


Up to now, the Taliban have refused to barter with the federal government of President Ashraf Ghani, calling it illegitimate. Washington is attempting to interrupt that deadlock.

“The Afghans need to determine what Afghanistan appears like. It is not in regards to the U.S., it is about Afghanistan,” Shanahan advised reporters touring with him from Washington.

The tempo of any U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a significant level of debate — and concern — given the power the Taliban nonetheless wields and the group’s well-established historical past of internet hosting terror teams. 

The TaIiban claimed final week that the Trump administration had agreed to tug half of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan overseas in only a couple months. The U.S. denies that any timeline for a withdrawal has been agreed but with the Taliban.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s particular envoy for Afghan peace talks, stated Friday that though talks are in an early stage, he hopes a deal might be made by July. That is when Afghanistan is scheduled to carry a presidential election.

Shanahan, a former Boeing govt who had by no means been in Afghanistan till Monday, was scheduled to satisfy with Ghani and different prime authorities officers.

TOLOnews, which describes itself on its Twitter web page as “Afghanistan’s first 24-hour information and present affairs tv community,” stated he’d began the method:

Shanahan took over as appearing secretary of protection on Jan. 1 after Jim Mattis submitted his resignation in December. Shanahan had been Mattis’ No. 2.

Shanahan’s views on the Afghan battle are usually not extensively recognized. He stated he would use this week’s go to to tell his considering and to report again to Mr. Trump.

In testimony earlier than Congress final week, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, provided a largely optimistic view of Afghanistan, saying the present maneuvering between U.S. and Taliban negotiators is “our first actual alternative for peace and reconciliation because the battle started.”

Votel famous that the Taliban are nonetheless able to inflicting important casualties on Afghan authorities forces. Simply final week, the insurgents killed some two dozen Afghan troops in an assault on a military base in northern Kunduz province.

Along with battling the Taliban, U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan are targeted on an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate often known as ISIS-Khorasan, comprised of international fighters largely from Pakistan. “Left unchecked,” Votel stated in his report back to Congress, ISIS-Khorasan “will proceed to develop as a menace to our homeland.”

In his remarks to reporters throughout his flight to Kabul, Shanahan stated that though the ISIS presence in Syria “has been decimated,” native Syrian safety forces are wanted to make sure stability. He stated ISIS nonetheless has a world presence.

“If one thing hasn’t been utterly eradicated, there’s a danger of it returning,” he stated.

Mr. Trump has taken an ambivalent method to Afghanistan, saying his intuition upon coming into workplace in 2017 was to withdraw. But he selected as a substitute so as to add about 3,500 troops in 2017-2018 to bolster the U.S. effort to coach and advise Afghan forces. After Mattis resigned in December, Mr. Trump insisted he’d been sad with how Mattis dealt with Afghanistan. Since then, the administration has stated it achieved a tentative “framework” for fuller peace negotiations with the Taliban.

“We have no idea whether or not we are going to obtain an settlement,” Trump stated in his State of the Union handle to Congress final week, “however we do know that after twenty years of battle, the hour has come to no less than attempt for peace.”

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