US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has arrived in Afghanistan for talks. The goal continues to be a peace agreement with the Taliban, said Esper. He wanted to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and others. He also wanted to meet commanders of the US troops in the country in the Hindu Kush and discuss the next steps. For Esper, it is Afghanistan's first visit as Secretary of Defense.
The Washington government is trying to revive talks with the radical Islamic Taliban after President Donald Trump broke off negotiations. The cause was repeated attacks by the Islamists, who also became a US soldier. Trump had then canceled in September a meeting with the Taliban leadership, on which a peace treaty should be closed.
The previous draft peace treaty stipulated that the jihadists no longer release the country as a retreat for terrorist organizations, as it once did for al-Qaeda. In addition, following the negotiations, the Taliban should engage in direct talks with the Afghan government to find a common strategy for the country's future. US soldiers should be gradually withdrawn within 16 months.
The US currently has about 14,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan to assist Ghani's government in its fight against the militant Islamist Taliban. Esper said the US could reduce its troop strength to 8,600 in Afghanistan without harming Al Qaeda's terrorist fight against the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan. But this retreat will only happen after a peace treaty with the Taliban. How long it could take until then, he did not want to say. Trump had already ordered during the peace talks to reduce the US troops in Afghanistan to 8,600. He had meanwhile declared the agreement with the Taliban dead.