U.S. DEFENSE CHIEF IN AFGHANISTAN FOR TALKS
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Sunday, March 21, 2021, amid conversations about the full withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, Hesamuddin Hesam reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
While in Kabul, Austin met with senior Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, according to a statement from the Afghan presidential palace.
Austin's visit to Afghanistan comes as Washington is accelerating its efforts for a political settlement in the war-torn country before a possible withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US troops on May 1. During the visit, both sides expressed their concerns over the increase of violence in the war-torn country, the palace said.
President Ghani and the US Secretary of Defense emphasized the need for a durable and just peace as the main solution for the current situation in Afghanistan, the palace added.
"I came to Afghanistan to listen and learn. This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with [the US president]," Austin wrote on Twitter.
The withdrawal deadline is part of an agreement the US administration under President Donald Trump signed with the Taliban militants last year in Doha, Qatar but the new US administration is reassessing it.
Under the deal, the US promised to withdraw all US and international forces from Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban vowed to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and enter into intra-Afghan peace talks.