US Secretary of Defense Austin visits crisis country Afghanistan – amid US considerations as to whether a full withdrawal of troops should take place on May 1.
Kabul (AP) – Amid discussions of an early US troop withdrawal, new US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Afghanistan on Sunday. The ex-general wrote on Twitter that he had come to listen and learn. The visit will help him form his opinion.
According to Afghan sources, in an interview with President Ashraf Ghani, Austin praised the Afghan security forces’ fight against terrorism. Both sides have also expressed concerns about the escalation of violence.
Two months after the change of power in Washington, this was Austin’s first visit to Afghanistan in his new role. But he knows the war-torn country well. As commander of the Central Command of the United States Armed Forces, the ex-general was also responsible for all military operations in Afghanistan. The visit comes at a time of intensified US efforts to advance the peace process in Afghanistan. The White House is under pressure to act quickly.
Under former President Donald Trump, an agreement was signed with the Taliban insurgent militias providing for the withdrawal of US soldiers and other international forces by May 1. At the same time, the Taliban promised to start peace talks with the government in Kabul. These have been running since September, but without any significant progress. Experts warn that a withdrawal of troops without a solid peace deal could plunge the country into even worse conflict or even collapse the state.
Since the assumption of current President Joe Biden, the US government has spread several new ideas to resolve the conflict, including a practically finalized peace deal. This provides, among other things, for a transitional government with the participation of the Taliban and a newly established “Islamic Council”, which in the future will examine all laws for their conformity with Islam.
At the same time, the document provides for a new constitution and new elections after the adoption of this constitution. It is uncertain whether such a plan has a chance. In the past, both the government and the Taliban had strictly rejected the core ideas of the proposal. The US has proposed a conference on Afghanistan in Turkey, which could take place in April.
Biden did not rule out the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan on May 1, as agreed with the Taliban, but described it as “difficult”. The Taliban continue to push for compliance with the agreement and thus the withdrawal date. According to official figures, there are still 2,500 US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. There are currently about 1,100 German soldiers in the country.
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