Acting secretary of defense makes surprise first visit to Afghanistan – National

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The Pentagon’s high official made an unannounced go to to Afghanistan on Monday to fulfill with U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders amid a push for peace with the Taliban.


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Pat Shanahan, the lately put in performing secretary of protection, stated he has no orders to cut back the U.S. troop presence, though officers say that’s on the high of the Taliban’s checklist of calls for in exploratory peace negotiations.

Shanahan stated he’s inspired that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is exploring all potentialities for ending a 17-year warfare, the longest in American historical past.

However he pressured that peace phrases are for the Afghans to determine. To date the Taliban have refused to barter with the federal government of President Ashraf Ghani, calling it illegitimate. Washington is attempting to interrupt that deadlock.

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

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’s when Afghanistan is scheduled to carry a presidential election.

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


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Shanahan took over as performing 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 warfare usually are not extensively recognized. He stated he would use this week’s go to to tell his pondering and to report again to Trump.

In testimony earlier than Congress final week, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, supplied 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 for the reason that warfare started.”

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Votel famous that the Taliban are nonetheless able to inflicting vital 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 centered on an Islamic State 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 Islamic State presence in Syria “has been decimated,” native Syrian safety forces are wanted to make sure stability. He stated IS nonetheless has a world presence.


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

Trump has taken an ambivalent method to Afghanistan, saying his intuition upon coming into workplace in 2017 was to withdraw. But he selected as an alternative so as to add about three,500 troops in 2017-2018 to bolster the U.S. effort to coach and advise Afghan forces. After Mattis resigned in December, Trump insisted that he had 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 20 years of warfare, the hour has come to at the least attempt for peace.”

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