Pentagon chief in Kabul as US looks to kickstart Taliban talks



US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday in a bid to bring talks with the Taliban back on track after President Donald Trump abruptly broke off negotiations last month seeking to end the United States’ longest war.
Esper’s trip to Kabul comes amid questions about the United States’ commitments to allies after a sudden withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria and Trump’s long-time desire to get out of foreign engagements. “The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement.
That is the best way forward,” Esper told reporters travelling with him to Afghanistan.
“I hope we can move forward and come up with a political agreement that meets our ends and meets the goals we want to achieve,” Esper said, adding that talks were in the State Departments domain.
He added that the United States could go down to about 8,600 troops, from the current 14,000, without affecting counter-terrorism operations, if needed.
Trump halted talks with the Taliban, aimed at striking a deal for US and other foreign troops to withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, after it carried out a bomb attack in Kabul last month that killed 12 people, including a US soldier.— Reuters