Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit Monday as the United States seeks to support the Kabul government while negotiating peace with the Taliban.


Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit Monday as the United States seeks to support the Kabul government while negotiating peace with the Taliban.

The US diplomat leading the talks has expressed hope at finding a deal before Afghan presidential elections scheduled for July, as President Donald Trump calls for an end to American military involvement in Afghanistan.
Mr Shanahan told reporters that it is important Afghan government be involved in peace talks.
He is expected to meet president M. Ashraf Ghani, senior US army commanders and a number of others in capital Kabul.

Meanwhile, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad left Washington on Sunday on yet another peace mission that includes talks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Qatar.
The US State Department said Ambassador Khalilzad and his interagency delegation would also consult officials in Belgium, Germany and Turkey before arriving in the region for further talks.

The State Department said the trip “is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects US national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country’s future”. Ambassador Khalilzad will meet “our allies and partners to discuss mutual efforts to advance that goal and will consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip”, the statement added.

On Sunday, President M. Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban were welcome to open an office in Kabul, Kandahar or Nangarhar to continue the peace talks that have so far been held in Doha or Qatar.

During a visit to the eastern Nangarhar province, President Ghani said he was offering the Taliban an office in Afghanistan because he wanted the peace talks to be held on the Afghan territory.
But a Taliban spokesman later told reporters that they would prefer to stay in Doha, where they have had an office since 2013, and would try to get international recognition of this outpost.


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