Acting Pentagon chief Patrick arrives in Afghanistan

Khalilzad heads 6-nation tour for ‘intra-Afghan’ talks

Kabul

Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit Monday as the United States seeks to support the Kabul government while negotiating peace with the Taliban.
Shanahan will meet President Ashraf Ghani, whose government was not part of major talks between US and Taliban officials last month that negotiators hope could bring a breakthrough in the grinding 17-year conflict.
Shanahan reinforced US support for the Kabul government before touching down in the Afghan capital. “It’s important that the Afghan government is involved in discussions regarding Afghanistan,” Shanahan told reporters on the flight. “The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future. It’s not about the US, it’s about Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, a senior US diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad, is set to lead a large delegation on a six-nation tour, including Afghanistan, to boost that country’s peace process and bring “all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue,” the State Department said Sunday.
The itinerary will take the US delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said, adding that Khalilzad would “consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip.”
President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed. But Khalilzad emphasized that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground.—Agencies

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