U.S. Defense Secretary Makes Secret Visit to Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Makes Secret Visit to Afghanistan
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U.S. Defense Secretary Makes Secret Visit to Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Makes Secret Visit to Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III landed in Afghanistan’s capital Sunday morning, turning into the primary member of President Biden’s cupboard to set foot within the nation that’s dwelling to America’s longest warfare.

The US is tentatively set to withdraw American forces from the nation on Could 1, the date set in an settlement signed by the Trump administration and the Taliban greater than a yr in the past.

Talking to reporters earlier than his departure from Afghanistan, Mr. Austin declined to touch upon whether or not the Taliban had met their obligations beneath that settlement, which might set off the departure of U.S. forces from a rustic the place they’ve had a steady presence since 2001.

“It’s apparent that the extent of violence stays fairly excessive within the nation,” Mr. Austin stated. “We’d actually like to see that violence come down, and I believe if it does come down it may well start to set the circumstances for some actually fruitful diplomatic work.”

Mr. Austin demurred on the concept of setting a special departure date for U.S. forces, saying that Mr. Biden would make that call.

“What we wish to see is a accountable finish to this battle,” he added in his remarks earlier than leaving for the beforehand unannounced go to.

Mr. Biden stated in an interview with ABC Information broadcast this previous week that assembly the deadline can be “robust.” On Saturday, talking with reporters in India, Mr. Austin expressed confidence that he may take away all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Could 1, ought to the president direct him to accomplish that.

The protection secretary’s go to to Afghanistan got here on the finish of greater than every week of journey throughout the Pacific throughout which he reassured allies that they’d have the US’ assist in countering potential threats from China.

First, at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, the secretary was briefed by Adm. Philip S. Davidson on varied threats within the area and the way American army property have been deployed in response. Flying subsequent to Japan and South Korea, Mr. Austin joined Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken for talks with the international and protection ministers of each nations.

Each secretaries emphasised the Biden administration’s stance that diplomacy would once more be the US’ first plan of action in international affairs.

In New Delhi, the place Mr. Austin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the protection minister, Rajnath Singh, senior U.S. protection officers stated that Indian leaders spoke principally about their considerations concerning China. It was solely towards the top of their talks that the problem of Pakistan — India’s neighbor and conventional important enemy — got here up.

The journey, Mr. Austin’s first as a cupboard member, comes as President Biden seeks to construct a sequence of safety agreements with varied nations who may band collectively to reply to Chinese language army operations within the South and East China Seas.

One such settlement between the US, Australia, Japan and India — referred to as “the quad” — was repeatedly cited by each Mr. Austin and Mr. Blinken as a mannequin for mixed army operations in area. Mr. Austin didn’t ask South Korea to be part of the quad throughout his time in Seoul, in accordance to a senior protection official.

Mr. Austin’s journey to Kabul was saved secret, and was to stay confidential till two hours after he left, however native reporters broke information of his go to after he met with President Ashraf Ghani.

The secretary’s arrival in Kabul got here on Nowruz, the Persian new yr — a date on which the Islamic State in Afghanistan had pledged to perform assaults. That led the Pentagon to preserve the secretary’s go to beneath wraps so long as potential.

After touchdown in Kabul, Mr. Austin boarded a U.S. Military Black Hawk helicopter for a quick flight to the headquarters of the American army mission. Simply off the previous soccer stadium that serves because the command’s heliport, Gen. Austin S. Miller, the American commander in Afghanistan, shortly walked Mr. Austin by a warren of small buildings and tall concrete blast partitions to his workplace.

Mr. Austin informed reporters that he had no explicit message that he conveyed to President Ghani, preferring as an alternative to pay attention to the Afghan president’s ideas on the state of affairs in his nation.

“We’ve accomplished quite a bit to work with the Afghan safety forces,” Mr. Austin stated in response to a query concerning considerations Afghans may need following a U.S. withdrawal. “And I don’t need to speculate about what may occur or what couldn’t occur going ahead.”

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