KABUL: President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday afternoon in Kabul to discuss the Afghanistan situation ahead of a May 1 troop withdrawal deadline.
Austin made an unannounced stop in Kabul after meeting with high-ranking Indian officials including Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the weekend.
In a tweet after meeting President Ghani, Austin said he was “very grateful for my time with President Ashraf Ghani today. I came to Afghanistan to listen and learn. This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here” with President Joe Biden on the troop withdrawal review.
According to the Presidential Palace (ARG), both President Ghani and Austin expressed their concerns over the increase of violence in the country.
Presidential palace stated that their discussions focused on the need for an enduring and just peace as the main solution for the current situation in Afghanistan, and that Austin said the US is supporting Afghanistan in this respect.
Austin’s visit comes after Biden revealed recently that he’s “in the process” of reaching a verdict on whether to withdraw all U.S. troops on the ground, keep them in the country indefinitely or extend their presence for another six months.
“I’m in the process of making that decision now as to when they’ll leave,” Biden told ABC news in an interview last week.
“The fact is that that was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president, the former president, worked out. And so we’re in consultation with our allies as well as the government, and that decision’s going to be — it’s in process now.” Biden added that a full-scale military pullout “could happen, but it is tough.”
However, the high levels of violence is of major concern to all parties. In February, Austin said: “Clearly, the violence is too high right now and more progress needs to be made in the Afghan-led negotiations.” “So I urge all parties to choose the path towards peace. And the violence must decrease now.”
Approximately 3,500 troops are in Afghanistan, which is around 1,000 more than what was disclosed by Pentagon officials, according to the New York Times.
The Kabul Times