'Taliban can open office in Kabul': Ghani

13 February, 2019, 13:04 | Author: Carlos George
  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a two-day conference on Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva Switzerland

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, left, arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday morning, February 11, 2019, to consult with Army Gen. Scott Miller, right, commander of USA and coalition forces, and senior Afghan government leaders.

On his first trip to Afghanistan since assuming office after the resignation of James Mattis in December, Shanahan said he didn't receive any orders like that, Efe news reported.

'There are no orders to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, ' he said.

According to multiple reports, Shanahan told reporters Monday that he did not have orders to start withdrawing troops, but a Taliban political official said in Moscow last week that the Taliban had already received word from the United States that Pentagon personnel in the country would be halved. "We want the war to end this year", the longtime U.S. diplomat and Afghan native said during a briefing on the negotiations at the Washington-based U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP).

With the Taliban directly engaging with the US and regional countries, Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani has been completely sidelined.

He also met his Afghan counterpart Asadullah Khalid in Kabul and reassured him that the United States military would not abandon Afghan soldiers in their battle against the militants.

Shanahan described Khalilzad as the "quarterback" of the American effort in Afghanistan but said the Pentagon would also play an important role in the peace effort.

Last November in Geneva, President Ghani reaffirmed his firm commitment to immediate, direct talks with the Taliban for negotiating a sustainable, win-win political settlement.

But Jason H. Campbell, an Afghanistan scholar at the Rand Corp., said securing that kind of a longer-term presence might not be possible if it is not accompanied by a larger effort to continue to fund and support Afghan forces.

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Mr Trump has offered no specifics about when he would bring home the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but has said progress in negotiations with the Taleban would enable a troop reduction and a "focus on counter-terrorism". Shanahan, a former Boeing executive and Mattis' deputy, is seen as a relative outsider in foreign policy circles. The U.S. envoy said significant progress on vital issues was made during the meetings.

"I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defense and supports regional stability, and that any type of sizing is done in a coordinated and disciplined manner", he said.

But the insurgents, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, have steadfastly refused.

Shanahan's views on the Afghan war are not widely known.

As the United States mulls withdrawal from Afghanistan, recent media coverage has been punctuated with defeatism.

Shanahan said in late January that he saw "some very encouraging possibilities" in Khalilzad's negotiations with the Taliban.

Shanahan told reporters earlier that he had no instructions from Washington to begin a withdrawal, however.

Afghanistan's highly regarded special forces units suffered increasingly heavy casualties a year ago as the Taliban mounted major assaults on provincial centers including Ghazni city and Farah city in the southwest.

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