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Acting Pentagon chief lands in Afghanistan, supports Kabul role in peace talks

Acting Pentagon chief lands in Afghanistan, supports Kabul role in peace talks

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KABUL (Reuters) – Appearing U.S. protection secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on Monday and stated it was necessary the Afghan authorities is concerned in talks, from which it has to date been excluded, to finish the 17-year-old battle.

FILE PHOTO: Appearing U.S. Secretary of Protection Patrick Shanahan speaks through the Missile Protection Assessment announcement on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Picture

Shanahan, who will meet U.S. troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first journey in his new position, stated he had to date not obtained any route to scale back the practically 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

He additionally stated the USA has necessary safety pursuits within the area.

Ghani’s authorities has been shut out of the evolving peace talks between Taliban negotiators and U.S. envoys, with the hardline Islamist motion branding his authorities a U.S. puppet. Kabul can also be involved sharp drawdown of U.S. forces might result in chaos within the area.

“It’s important that the Afghan authorities is concerned in discussions relating to Afghanistan,” Shanahan advised a small group of reporters touring with him on the unannounced journey.

“The Afghans must resolve what Afghanistan appears like sooner or later. It’s not concerning the U.S., it’s about Afghanistan,” he stated.

Shanahan took over from Jim Mattis, who stop in December over coverage variations with U.S. President Donald Trump.

He stated he couldn’t make any ensures as a result of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was main the talks.

“The U.S. army has robust safety pursuits within the area. (The) presence will evolve out of these discussions,” Shanahan stated.

He additionally stated his objective on the journey was to get an understanding of the scenario on the bottom from commanders after which to temporary Trump on his findings.

U.S. officers have held a number of rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar since final 12 months in what’s broadly seen as essentially the most severe bid but for peace in Afghanistan for the reason that Taliban had been ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

Either side hailed progress after the most recent spherical final month, though vital obstacles stay. These embody the involvement of the Afghan authorities, which the Taliban refuse to acknowledge.

The following spherical of talks is due in Qatar on Feb. 25.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist on the Woodrow Wilson Middle, stated Shanahan’s predominant precedence in Kabul needs to be to deal with Afghan authorities issues.

“The highest precedence of Shanahan needs to be to impress upon the federal government that we’re going to do every thing we will to get you into this dialog,” Kugelman stated.

‘LEVERAGE’

Shanahan will even must grapple with how a lot allies will belief him.

Mattis, a former four-star basic as soon as accountable for U.S. Central Command, was revered for his deep data of army and international affairs. Shanahan, a former Boeing government and Mattis’s deputy, is seen as a relative outsider in international coverage circles.

Afghanistan and neighboring international locations are additionally involved concerning the impact a sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces might have on the area.

An Afghan official, talking on the situation of anonymity, advised Reuters that even the suggestion of U.S. troops probably leaving was harmful.

“In fact it has given leverage to the Taliban, there isn’t a query about that,” the official stated.

Trump has supplied no specifics about when he would carry house the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan however has stated progress in negotiations with the Taliban would allow a troop discount and a “concentrate on counter-terrorism”.

Shanahan stated a withdrawal of about half the U.S. troops in Afghanistan was not one thing that was being mentioned at this level and he had not been directed to scale back troop numbers.

“The presence we would like in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland protection and helps regional stability after which any kind of sizing is finished in a coordinated and disciplined method,” he stated.

Khalilzad stated after six days of talks with the Taliban in Doha final month the USA and the Taliban had sketched the outlines for an eventual peace accord.

He has stated since then there had been progress on the way forward for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, the Taliban have put out contradictory data on what timeline the U.S. had agreed to in any potential withdrawal.

Most not too long ago, a Taliban official stated no timetable had been agreed with the U.S. authorities for the partial withdrawal of U.S. forces.

U.S. officers have advised Reuters that, whereas no formal orders have been despatched, the army is getting ready for what a withdrawal of about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would appear like.

Reporting by Idrees Ali in Kabul; Modifying by Greg Torode and Paul Tait

Our Requirements:The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.

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