KABUL: In an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met President Ashraf Ghani during which they both expressed concerns over the increase of violence in the war-torn country, according to authorities in Kabul.
Austin arrived in Kabul on Sunday, following his two-day trip to New Delhi.
In a tweet on Sunday evening, Austin said: “I’m 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 POTUS (US President Joe Biden).”
In a statement issued after the meeting, the Afghan Presidential Palace said that Austin is expected to meet other senior high ranking officials during his stay in Kabul, TOLO News reported. “Ghani and the Defence Secretary stressed that enduring and just peace is the main solution for the current situation in Afghanistan,” the Palace said. The statement added that Austin stressed the US is supporting Afghanistan in this respect.
Austin’s trip comes as the US is reviewing the Doha agreement, which the country had signed with the Taliban in February 2020, while also keeping all options on the table when it comes to the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
In a report last week, NBC News had said that President Biden is considering keeping US troops in Afghanistan until November, rather than withdrawing them by the May deadline, TOLO News reported.
But there has been no official comment on this development.