The Pentagon’s prime official assured Afghanistan’s authorities on Monday that the U.S. wouldn’t desert the nation’s safety forces, the Afghan Protection Ministry mentioned, signaling American assist for the jittery authorities whereas the U.S. holds talks with the Taliban to finish the nation’s 17-year warfare.

In his first abroad journey as appearing protection secretary, Patrick Shanahan met senior U.S. army officers and prime Afghan officers, together with President Ashraf Ghani, whose authorities has been excluded from the newest effort to barter a settlement of the punishing battle. The Taliban have refused to enter talks with the Kabul administration, which they are saying is illegitimate.

An Afghan Protection Ministry assertion in Dari and Pashto, the nation’s two primary languages, mentioned Mr. Shanahan had assured Afghanistan’s appearing protection minister that beneath a peace deal the U.S. “wouldn’t abandon Afghan forces in coaching and combating terrorism.” An English model of the assertion omits the pledge to the Afghan official, Asadullah Khalid.

An aide to Mr. Shanahan mentioned that in the course of the assembly with the protection minister, the Pentagon chief affirmed the U.S. dedication to Afghanistan’s safety and mentioned the progress in President Trump’s South Asia technique.

Earlier, the previous

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government, who grew to become appearing protection secretary in December following the resignation of Jim Mattis, informed reporters accompanying him on his unannounced go to to Kabul that Afghan authorities participation within the peace course of is essential.

“The Afghans must resolve what Afghanistan appears like sooner or later,” he mentioned. “It’s not in regards to the U.S., it’s about Afghanistan.”

It wasn’t clear whether or not Mr. Shanhan indicated to Mr. Ghani how or when his authorities can be introduced into the peace course of.

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Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. particular envoy main the American negotiating effort, mentioned in a speech on Friday in Washington that he needed dialogue amongst Afghans to “begin instantly.”

One other spherical of talks is scheduled for later this month within the Gulf state of Qatar, the place the Taliban have a political workplace. The agenda is predicted to incorporate the scope and timeline of a U.S. troop withdrawal, together with a cease-fire.

Final month, the 2 sides reached a framework settlement calling for the withdrawal of international forces and ensures that Afghanistan wouldn’t be allowed to turn out to be a staging floor for Islamist militant teams to launch terrorist assaults overseas.


“I feel the presence we wish in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland protection and helps regional stability.”


—Appearing U.S. Protection Secretary Patrick Shanahan

In response, Mr. Ghani informed President Trump in a letter final month that his authorities was keen to debate easy methods to cut back the scale and value of the American army presence in Afghanistan. The Trump administration requested $45 billion for fight operations within the nation this fiscal yr and $5.2 billion in support for the Afghan safety forces.

The pinnacle of the Taliban’s delegation to the talks in Doha final month, Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, has insisted that every one U.S. troopers, trainers, contractors and guards depart Afghanistan and depart all army {hardware} behind.

In an interview with pro-Taliban media final month, Mr. Stanikzai additionally known as for the dissolution of the Afghan safety forces as a part of any peace deal. He later clarified the assertion, saying that for the reason that safety forces have been created to struggle the Taliban, their mandate would finish after any peace accord.

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The Ghani administration’s ties with Washington have been frayed by worries over the withdrawal of U.S. army forces. In December, Mr. Mattis resigned after clashing with Mr. Trump over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The president reportedly ordered the elimination of just about half the 14,000 American service personnel from the nation. Per week later, the White Home denied the accounts.

Afghanistan’s most powerful opposition politicians, led by former President Hamid Karzai, met with Taliban representatives last week in Moscow.

Afghanistan’s strongest opposition politicians, led by former President Hamid Karzai, met with Taliban representatives final week in Moscow.


Picture:

Pavel Golovkin/Related Press

Since then, U.S. army officers in Afghanistan have mentioned they’ve acquired no orders for a pullout.

On Monday, Mr. Shanahan reiterated that assertion. “I feel the presence we wish in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland protection and helps regional stability,” he added.

About 5,525 of the U.S. army personnel in Afghanistan assist air operations, practice Afghan particular forces and perform counterterrorism operations, in accordance with the newest figures provided by the U.S. Particular Inspector Normal for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The remaining personnel are assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Group’s mission to coach, advise and help Afghan safety forces, which whole about 312,000 troopers and police. The coaching power numbers 16,229 folks from 39 NATO and non-NATO associate nations.

How NATO forces can be configured in post-settlement Afghanistan—or whether or not they can be primarily based within the nation in any respect—is a matter within the U.S.-Taliban talks. The alliance’s mission in Afghanistan is more likely to be mentioned when Mr. Shanahan travels to Brussels this week for talks with NATO officers and protection ministers.

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In his State of the Union tackle to Congress final week, Mr. Trump voiced warning about U.S.-Taliban talks. “We have no idea whether or not we’ll obtain an settlement,” he mentioned, “however we do know that after 20 years of warfare, the hour has come to at the least strive for peace.”

Testifying the identical day on Capitol Hill, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. army’s Central Command, mentioned the U.S. talks with the Taliban have been of their “very, very early” levels.

The U.S. envoy, Mr. Khalilzad, is in search of a broad settlement with the Taliban that can create momentum to deal with what most specialists regard as a far-thornier section of the method: talks amongst Afghans about future political preparations.

The sidelining of the Afghan authorities has dismayed Mr. Ghani and angered many in Kabul’s political institution. The Afghan president has pinned his re-election hopes partly on main the peace course of.

He and his authorities have been thrown on the defensive once more final week, when a delegation of Afghanistan’s strongest opposition politicians, led by former President Hamid Karzai, held separate talks with Taliban representatives in Moscow on doable adjustments to the nation’s structure and Islamic system of presidency. Mr. Ghani known as the talks “nothing greater than a fantasy.” Whereas some Afghans echoed his condemnation, many others cautiously welcomed the gathering.

Write to Craig Nelson at [email protected]

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