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The incumbent Pentagon chief undertakes an unannounced Afghanistan trip news



Patrick Shanahan, the current Defense Secretary, has arrived on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan while the United States negotiated peace with the Taliban.

Shanahan will meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose government was not involved in important talks between the US and the Taliban representatives last month, where officials hope they will make a breakthrough in the 17-year conflict.

The Afghan government is involved in discussions about Afghanistan, "Shanahan told a small group of reporters traveling with him on a surprise voyage Monday.

The incumbent Pentagon chief said Washington has important security interests in the country Shanahan replaced Jim Mattis, who had given up on political differences with US President Donald Trump in December.

The Taliban refused to negotiate directly with the Ghani government and call it a "puppet" of the West. Ghani's allies in Washington insist that the Afghans should lead the peace process.

Kabul is also concerned that a sharp withdrawal of nearly 1

4,000 US troops in Afghanistan is chaotic could lead in the region.

The Taliban want all American troops to be withdrawn and officials say that in the exploratory talks, this is high on the list of demands of the armed group.

Shanahan, who will also meet US commanders, told reporters that he has not received any instructions to mine troops in Afghanistan.

"Information Journey"

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley from Kabul said Shanahan's trip had been "an information voyage."

"His views on Afghanistan are not widely known and are expected to be publicized after this visit," Birtley added. "His comments on the Afghan government's involvement in peace negotiations are important to the government because they are out of action because of US-led talks."

Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Envoy of the Trump Government for Afghan Peace Talks, said on Friday, though peace talks with the Taliban are at an early stage. He hopes a deal can be made by July.

Then Afghanistan is to hold presidential elections.

Since his appointment in September last year to the US Special Representative for Reconciliation in Afghanistan Khalilzad conducted several roundtables with the Taliban and other regional representatives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, India, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The last US Secretary of State talks took place in Doha at the end of last month, where both sides met for six days. Washington wants assurances that Afghanistan will not host groups that use the country as a base for attacks on the US.

The next round of talks will take place on 25 February in Qatar.

In December, there were numerous reports that Trump intended to halve the number of US troops in Afghanistan. In his State of the Union address last week, the US President said any withdrawal would be linked to progress in peace talks.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, who appeared last week before Congress, offered a largely optimistic view of Afghanistan. He said the current US-Taliban negotiators maneuver is "our first real chance for peace and reconciliation since." War began. "

Votel noted that the Taliban continues to inflict significant casualties on Afghan government forces.

Last week, Taliban fighters killed about two dozen Afghan troops in an attack on an army base in the northern province of Kunduz [1965] 19659004] In addition to the fight against the Taliban, the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan focus on a subsidiary of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), which is known as ISIS-Khorasan consisting of foreign fighters, mostly from Pakistan.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies


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