Acting US Defense Chief Visits Afghanistan

Acting U.S. defense chief Pat Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan Monday to meet with Afghan leaders and U.S. commanders.

The visit comes as negotiators work toward a peace deal for the war that began in 2001.

Shanahan told reporters traveling with him that he wants to stress to Afghan officials the importance of their involvement in discussions about what happens in their country.

“The U.S. has significant, significant investment in ensuring security, but the Afghans decide their future,” he said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has not been part of ongoing talks between U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban.

Khalilzad said last week he believes a peace agreement could be achieved before Afghanistan’s presidential election in July. He and his team are due to meet with the Taliban again in Qatar on February 25 for more discussions

Shanahan said the Pentagon is “playing a critical role in facilitating the dialogue around those framework discussions,” and is working in close coordination with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“Right now they’re in the stage of, what are all the possibilities and which party should be talking to who?” Shanahan told reporters.

He also said he has not been directed to reduce the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan.

“I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defense and supports regional stability. And that any type of sizing is done in a coordinated and disciplined manner,” Shanahan said.

Source: Voice of America