Acting defense chief Shanahan makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

Nellie Chapman
February 13, 2019

It said the trip is intended "to facilitate a peace process that protects USA national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country's future".

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, and that it is up to people in Afghanistan to decide their own future.

Khalilzad is set to lead a large delegation on a six-nation tour, including Afghanistan, to boost the peace process and seek to bring all Afghan parties to the table.

Of course, as a strategist with foresight, President Trump doesn't have to repeat the same past mistakes on Afghanistan. US-Taliban peace talks have not included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets, and Khalilzad said recently that intra-Afghan negotiations were essential. "We are in the early stage of a protracted process", he said.

Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Kabul, had a six-day consultation with Afghan Taliban last month in Qatar.

"We will continue to fight every single day until there is a peaceful settlement and that is important to know that the Taliban will continue to feel this enormous military pressure", Butler told TOLOnews on February 10.

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Shanahan took over as acting secretary of defense on January 1 after Jim Mattis submitted his resignation in December. Shanahan had been Mattis' No 2. Mattis' resignation came after Trump ordered the Pentagon, against the defense chief's recommendation, to work out a plan to withdraw approximately half of the almost 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan. He said he would use this week's visit to inform his thinking and to report back to Trump.

Ghani proposes the Jirga at a time that Taliban has constantly refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government. This underpinned Clinton's decision to halt spending on the post-Cold War stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan, after the Soviet occupation forces withdrew from the country and the communist regime, which they had been backing, collapsed in 1992. "Left unchecked", Votel said in his report to Congress, ISIS-Khorasan "will continue to grow as a threat to our homeland".

On his first trip to Afghanistan since assuming office after the resignation of James Mattis in December, Shanahan said he didn't receive any orders like that, Efe news reported. He said IS still has a global presence. "There is no risk in holding consultations", Ghani said.

Syrian Democratic Forces vehicles make their way on a dirt road on January 28, 2019, in the town of Sousa, in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor. The push was focused on the village of Baghouz, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in the south-eastern Syria province of Deir al-Zour.

Khalizad, who was appointed to his current post in September, said although he and the Taliban have made progress on the issue of a US troop withdrawal, that is just one among many issues and none has been fully resolved. He, however, added that he has not so far received any direction to reduce troops in Afghanistan.

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