Acting US defence secretary visits Afghanistan, meets with Ghani

Christopher Miller meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and visits US troops as American forces continue to withdraw.

Christopher Miller meets with President Ashraf Ghani
US Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller meets with Afghan President Asraf Ghani in Kabul [Afghan president's office via Twitter]

Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller has discussed US support for Afghan security forces and ongoing Taliban talks with the Afghan president in Kabul on Tuesday.

The visit comes as US troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan after US President Donald Trump last month ordered the number of US forces to be about halved to 2,500 by January 15, five days before he leaves office.

Miller also spoke about the security situation in Afghanistan and the region with President Ashraf Ghani.

The US has had troops in Afghanistan for 19 years, and President Trump had tweeted that all US forces would be home from Afghanistan by Christmas.

The US and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha, Qatar, in February that would see the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan by May 2021 if the Taliban met certain conditions including a reduction in violence to lead to a ceasefire and peace talks with the Afghan government, which are on hold until January 5.

As Miller was in Kabul, a bomb attached to a vehicle killed five people, including four doctors, the latest attack in the capital. Violence remains high in Kabul and around the country. Just this month Kabul’s deputy governor, at least two journalists and many civilians have been killed, some in targeted attacks.

The Taliban denied involvement in the Tuesday bombing.

Miller also met with the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller (no relation), and with US soldiers to thank them for spending the Christmas and New Years holidays away from their families.

Last week US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the Taliban in Qatar and Ghani in Kabul. “The most important part of the discussions that I had with both the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence,” Milley said. “Everything else hinges on that.”

President-elect Joe Biden, who will inherit the war in Afghanistan – the United States’s longest – when he takes office on January 20, has not said what he plans to do about US troop numbers there or with the Afghan-Taliban talks which have moved slowly.

General Miller, the Afghanistan commander, said last week the peace process was at risk because of increased attacks by the Taliban on Afghan forces on roadways and other infrastructure, creating “an unbearable burden” on the Afghan security forces and society, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Source: Al Jazeera