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Top Pentagon Official Visits Afghanistan Amid Push for Peace

13 February 2019, 01:02 | Glen Norman

Top Pentagon Official Visits Afghanistan Amid Push for Peace

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad approaches the microphone to speak on the prospects for peace Friday Feb. 8 2019 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington

Washington is trying to break that impasse.

Pat Shanahan was in Afghanistan's capital on Monday, meeting with Afghan leaders and American military commanders and diplomats.

Amidst the ongoing peace efforts, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Monday said the Afghan Defense and Security Forces backed by their foreign counterparts will increase their attacks on Taliban's strongholds.

Upon arrival in Afghanistan, Shanahan said coordination with the Kabul government to end more than 17 years of militancy is vital.

Shanahan also told reporters he has not had orders to withdraw USA troops from Afghanistan.

The State Department said on Saturday that Khalilzad would spend the rest of the month traveling to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan to work on Afghan peace process.

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Of course, as a strategist with foresight, President Trump doesn't have to repeat the same past mistakes on Afghanistan.

A peace deal however would require the Taliban to sit with the Afghan government, whom they have so far denied to meet because the militants consider the Kabul administration a 'puppet regime.' Ghani has repeatedly invited the militants for talks.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped into his role after the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis in December.

Shanahan's views on the Afghan war are not widely known. He said he would use this week's visit to inform his thinking and to report back to Mr. Trump.

Shanahan's trip comes as the USA special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is setting off on a visit to several key countries as part of efforts to push a US peace initiative for the war-torn country.

The strikes, according to Senator Hashim Alokozay, were in support of a ground operation by Afghan forces that had come under heavy fire in the area.

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Afghanistan and neighboring countries are also concerned about the effect of a sudden withdrawal of USA forces on the region. "Left unchecked", Votel said in his report to Congress, ISIS-Khorasan "will continue to grow as a threat to our homeland".

The Afghan Office of the National Security Council said Hamdullah Mohib, the country's national security advisor, had discussed the peace process with Shanahan.

The SDF said at the end of last month that the presence of the fighters' wives and children meant the USA -backed militia could not launch an all-out storm of the enclave and instead would have to use more measured and precise tactics, which has slowed the advance.

"If something hasn't been completely eradicated, there is a risk of it returning", he said. He previously was the No. 2 official under Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief in December.

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.

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