US defense chief arrives in Kabul on 1st trip to Afghanistan

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State media reported that US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived on Sunday in Kabul on his first trip to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, amid swirling questions on how lengthy American troops will stay in the nation.

State-owned Radio and Television Afghanistan and standard TOLO Television reported Austin’s arrival in Kabul from India. He was anticipated to meet with senior Afghan authorities officers, together with President Ashraf Ghani.

President Joe Biden mentioned final week in an ABC News interview that it will likely be “tough” for the US to meet a May 1 deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. But he mentioned that if the deadline, which is laid out in an settlement between former President Donald Trump’s administration and the Taliban, is prolonged, it wouldn’t be by a “lot longer.”

In response, the Taliban on Friday warned of penalties if the US doesn’t meet the deadline.

Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban negotiation crew, advised reporters that if US troops keep past May 1, “it will be a kind of violation of the agreement. That violation would not be from our side. … Their violation will have a reaction.”

Austin was anticipated to meet with Ghani and the newly appointed defence chief Army Chief of Staff Gen. Yasin Zia, who was appointed performing defence minister this week. Washington is reviewing the settlement the Trump administration signed with the Taliban final yr.

In a sharply worded letter to Ghani earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned it’s pressing to make peace in Afghanistan and all choices stay on the desk. He additionally warned that it’s doubtless the Taliban would make swift territorial beneficial properties if US and NATO troops withdrew. United States spends USD 4 billion a yr to maintain Afghanistan’s National Security Forces.

The Taliban warned America towards defying the May 1 deadline at a press convention in Moscow, the day after assembly with senior Afghan authorities negotiators and worldwide observers to strive to jumpstart a stalled peace course of to finish Afghanistan’s many years of conflict.

Washington has additionally given each the Taliban and the Afghan authorities an eight-page peace proposal, which either side are reviewing. It requires an interim so-called “peace government” which might shepherd Afghanistan towards constitutional reform and elections.

Ghani has resisted an interim administration inflicting his critics to accuse him of clinging to energy. He says elections alone could be acceptable to deliver a change of presidency.

Both the US and Kabul have known as for a discount in violence main to a cease-fire. The Taliban say a cease-fire could be a part of the peace negotiations. However, the rebel motion has not attacked US or NATO troops since signing the settlement.

However, US army commanders and NATO leaders have argued that the Taliban haven’t lived up to their a part of the peace settlement, which features a discount in violence and a separation from al-Qaida and different terror teams.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg mentioned final month that the alliance “will only leave when the time is right” and when situations have been met.

“The main issue is that Taliban has to reduce violence, Taliban has to negotiate in good faith and Taliban has to stop supporting international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda,” he mentioned.

Austin has mentioned little on the report in regards to the ongoing stalemate. After a digital assembly of NATO defence ministers, Austin advised reporters that “our presence in Afghanistan is conditions based, and Taliban has to meet their commitments.”

Austin’s cease in Afghanistan marks his first return to a US warzone in the Middle East since taking the Pentagon submit. But he spent an excessive amount of time in the area throughout his service as an Army commander.

Austin, a retired four-star basic, served in Afghanistan as commander of the tenth Mountain Division. And from 2013-2016 he was the pinnacle of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan go to comes on the finish of Austin’s his first abroad trip as secretary. After a cease in Hawaii, he went to Japan and South Korea, the place he and Secretary of State Blinken met with their defense and overseas ministers.

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