Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

U.S. Acting Defense Chief Arrives In Afghanistan On Unannounced Visit

U.S. Acting Defense Chief Arrives In Afghanistan On Unannounced Visit

The death toll of US service members in Afghanistan has surpassed 2,400 since the United States invaded the country in 2001. He said the not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan and will leave if Kabul does not want USA troops there, provided that there is no threat to US national security from Afghanistan, particularly from terrorist groups.

Shanahan, 56, has said his priorities would include the impending US troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China's military might. "It's not about the U.S., it's about Afghanistan", Shanahan told reporters travelling with him from Washington.

Some in Afghanistan have opposed any peace deal with the Taliban, while the Taliban has so far refused to negotiate with the government in Kabul, calling government officials puppets of the West.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that, while no formal orders have been sent, the military is preparing for what a withdrawal of about half of the 14,000 United States troops in Afghanistan would look like.

Shanahan's performance on the global stage could influence whether President Donald Trump elevates the longtime Boeing executive from his uncertain status as interim Pentagon leader to be the administration's nominee to replace Jim Mattis.

At an extraordinary moment in Pentagon history, a former business executive with little political stature and without military experience is making his worldwide debut as the acting US defense secretary.

He said the aim of his trip was to get an understanding of the situation on the ground from commanders and then brief Trump on his findings.

Shanahan said from his plane that he had no orders to "step down our forces in Afghanistan", but was tasked with supporting ongoing peace talks between Washington and the Taliban. Those include the involvement of the Afghan government, which the Taliban refuse to acknowledge.

The statement said Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan who has undertaken extensive recent talks with the Taliban, would head an interagency delegation from February 10 to 28.

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The liquor is usually made with poor-quality ingredients and sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol and toxic substances. In the adjoining Haridwar district, the death toll had risen to 28, from 12 on Friday, broadcaster NDTV reported.

The US is expected to commence a second round of talks with Taliban officials on February 25 in Qatar, where they have their political office.

USA troop numbers in Afghanistan since 2001.

"Of course it has given leverage to the Taliban, there is no question about that", the official said.

There are about 14,000 USA troops now deployed in Afghanistan, and the US administration reportedly plans to bring half of them home.

'I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability'.

"We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement", Trump said in his State of the Union address to Congress last week, "but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace".

Nangarhar is a stronghold of the Taliban, the hardline Islamist movement that now controls or contests districts across almost half the country, more than 17 years since they were toppled from power.

Shanahan met with a group of elite Afghan commandos later on Monday and backed using more resources for offensive operations by the special forces.

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