Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan Assures Afghanistan of U.S. Support – By Claire Hansen (US News) / Feb 11 2019
The declaration of support comes after the U.S. and the Taliban last month agreed to a peace deal framework.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped into his role after the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis in December. The Associated Press
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan reassured the Afghan government of U.S. support during a surprise visit to the country on Monday.
Shanahan told Afghan officials that the U.S. would not abandon the Afghan security forces, the country’s Defense Ministry said, according to the Wall Street Journal. The talks come as the Trump administration pushes for a negotiated end to the country’s war with the Taliban that has lasted the better part of two decades. The Afghan government has been left out of the current peace talks, and the Taliban refuses to engage with it, saying it is illegitimate.
Shanahan also told reporters traveling with him that Afghan government participation in peace negotiations is important, according to reports.
“It is important that the Afghan government is involved in discussions regarding Afghanistan,” Shanahan said, according to the reports. “The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future. It’s not about the U.S., it is about Afghanistan.”
The U.S. and the Taliban reportedly agreed last month to a peace framework in which the group would prevent terrorists from staging and training in Afghan territory and enter a cease-fire in exchange for a withdrawal of foreign forces. The U.S. is also reported to have demanded that the Taliban begin talks with the Afghan government, a step that the Taliban has vigorously opposed in the past.
Sources told The New York Times last month that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is worried American negotiators will agree to the formation of an interim government that includes the Taliban in some way.
The Afghanistan trip is Shanahan’s first overseas trip since December, when the former Boeing executive stepped into the role of acting defense secretary after the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Shanahan also told reporters he has not had orders to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.