Acting Pentagon chief in Afghanistan, United States News & Top Stories

Frederick Owens
February 13, 2019

The acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan arrived in the Afghan capital for an unannounced visit on Monday, meeting with top officials from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the government.

Shanahan said: 'I have not been directed to step down our forces in Afghanistan.

Shanahan told Afghan officials that the USA would not abandon the Afghan security forces, the country's Defense Ministry said, according to the Wall Street Journal. Kabul is also concerned that a sharp drawdown of USA forces could lead to chaos in the region. "It's not about the US, it's about Afghanistan", Shanahan told reporters traveling with him from Washington.

Shanahan held discussions in Kabul with Scott Miller, the top USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander in Afghanistan, as well as the country's defence minister and national security advisor.

Patrick Shanahan arrived in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Monday and is scheduled to sit down for talks with President Ashraf Ghani and visit the American troops deployed to the country.

"The US has significant - significant - investment in ensuring security, but the Afghans decide their future", he said.

Ghani's government has been shut out of the evolving peace talks between Taliban negotiators and USA envoys, with the hardline Islamist movement branding his government a US puppet.

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.

Shanahan addressed peace talks that took place in Qatar last week with USA and Taliban leaders and Afghan politicians that aim to end US troops' 17-year presence in the country.

That progress, made during marathon talks between the two sides in the Qatari city of Doha over the last month, have administration officials confident a formal peace pact could be in place as soon as July.

Shanahan, 56, has said his priorities would include the impending US troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China's military might. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive and Mattis' deputy, is seen as a relative outsider in foreign policy circles.

"Beyond a [just] political agreement, future peace talks will need to address a range of thorny issues on cease-fires, prisoner releases, and human and women's rights protections as well as how to enforce the terms of an agreement", Mr. Worden said in a recent analysis of the Afghan peace process.

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The death toll of US service members in Afghanistan has surpassed 2,400 since the United States invaded the country in 2001.

Chairing a meeting of Advisory Council for Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Monday, he said Pakistan is fulfilling collective responsibility efficiently to bring peace in Afghanistan with cooperation of regional and worldwide partners.

U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan since 2001.

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.

"I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability".

The State Department said Khalilzad would travel on February 10-28 to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The Taliban have put out contradictory information on what timeline the United States has agreed to in any potential withdrawal.

Alokozay said it is not clear whether Afghan or United States forces conducted the strikes.

In Kabul, Shanahan blasted earlier U.S. media reports saying President Donald Trump was planning to drastically reduce troop levels.

Shanahan's views on the Afghan war are not widely known.

Officials have expressed concern that Afghan security forces, already stretched thin, could crumble if U.S. troops leave.

Afghanistan's highly regarded special forces units suffered increasingly heavy casualties past year as the Taliban mounted major assaults on provincial centers including Ghazni city and Farah city in the southwest.

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