Pat Shanahan, acting Pentagon chief, in unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Pat Shanahan, acting Pentagon chief, in unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Pat Shanahan, acting Pentagon chief, in unannounced visit to Afghanistan

An Afghan Senator, Gulalai Akbari, said Afghanistan needs "foreign assistance" until peace and stability are ensured in the country as he talked about the USA forces presence in Afghanistan.

Acting U.S. defense secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan February 11, 2019.

The latest push for a peace came after President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Pakistan's help for the negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict.

US-Taliban peace talks have not included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets, and Khalilzad said recently that intra-Afghan negotiations were essential.

In addition to battling the Taliban, U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan are focused on an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, comprised of foreign fighters largely from Pakistan.

"Our demand about having an official political office is clear, we want that our office in Doha is recognised by the global community and the United Nations", Shahin said.

Khalilzad will also consult with the Afghan government during the trip.

Shanahan said from his plane that he had no orders to "step down our forces in Afghanistan", but was tasked with supporting ongoing peace talks between Washington and the Taliban. Those include the involvement of the Afghan government.

Reuters meanwhile reported that Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said Shanahan's main priority in Kabul should be to address Afghan government concerns.

"No, there is no program for leaving Afghanistan", Butler told TOLOnews on Sunday.

Reports about a possible withdrawal of a significant number of U.S. forces from Afghanistan emerged last December.

A defense official told CNN that Trump at the same time also chose to withdraw about half of the 14,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan.

"The presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defense and supports regional stability and then any type of sizing is done in a coordinated and disciplined manner", he said.

Shanahan said a withdrawal of about half the US troops in Afghanistan was not something that was being discussed and he had not been directed to reduce troop numbers.

Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Kabul, had a six-day consultation with Afghan Taliban last month in Qatar.

He reinforced USA support for the Kabul government before touching down in the Afghan capital.

He said the not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan and will leave if Kabul does not want US troops there, provided that there is no threat to USA national security from Afghanistan, particularly from terrorist groups.

The insurgent group claimed last week that the Trump administration had agreed to pull half of the USA forces in Afghanistan out of the country in just a couple months.

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