A top Pentagon official took an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on February 11 to meet with USA commanders and Afghan leaders amid a renewed push for peace with the Taliban as the Trump administration seeks to end the 17-year-war-the longest in the history of the United States. "(The) presence will evolve out of those discussions".
President Trump is pushing to end USA involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed. Backed by 2,000 USA troops, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they are in a final showdown against ISIS after helping to drive the group from the towns and cities that once formed its self-proclaimed caliphate in eastern Syria.
"Afghans must control their own future and be involved in ongoing peace discussions and there are no orders to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan", Shanahan said, according to Colonel Dave Butler, a spokesman for Resolute Support, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation training mission in Afghanistan. "It's not about the USA, it is about Afghanistan".
Ghani's government has been shut out of the peace talks between Taliban negotiators and United States envoys, with the hardline Islamist movement branding it a U.S. puppet.
Khalilzad will also consult with the Afghan government during the trip.
Shanahan addressed peace talks that took place in Qatar last week with USA and Taliban leaders and Afghan politicians that aim to end US troops' 17-year presence in the country.
USA representatives have met the Taliban for talks at least five times since July, with the last meeting held last month.
A senior USA diplomat is set to lead a large delegation on a six-nation tour, including Afghanistan, to boost that country's peace process and bring "all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue", the State Department said Sunday. The unannounced visit is the first for the acting secretary of defense, Pat Shanahan. It's a stark contrast with the overwhelming optimism of the Afghan people for a future of peace with liberty and dignity, which is achievable with continued global support.
Upon arrival in Afghanistan, Shanahan said coordination with the Kabul government to end more than 17 years of militancy is vital.
The death toll of USA service members in Afghanistan has surpassed 2,400 since the United States invaded the country in 2001.
'I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability'.
Khalizad, who was appointed to his current post in September, said although he and the Taliban have made progress on the issue of a USA troop withdrawal, that is just one among many issues and none has been fully resolved.
He told reporters that his goal on the trip was to get an understanding of the situation on the ground from commanders and then brief Mr Trump on his findings.
Khalilzad said after six days of talks with the Taliban in Doha last month the United States and the Taliban had sketched the outlines for an eventual peace accord.
A spokesman of the Defense Ministry, Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed, said military operations by Afghan forces are ongoing in at least 15 provinces.
Officials have expressed concern that if United States troops leave, Afghanistan security forces, already stretched thin, could crumble.
Shanahan's views on the Afghan war are not widely known.