U.S. Defense Secretary visits Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary visits Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in an unnanounced visit to Kabul on Sunday as Washington reviews the peace process there and its planned troop withdrawal.

Austin said on Twitter he had come to "listen and learn", on his first trip to Afghanistan since his appointment.

"This visit been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with (U.S. President Joe Biden)," Reuters cited him as saying.

The meeting comes at a crucial time for the Afghan peace process ahead of a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops agreed by the insurgent Taliban and the administration of previous U.S. President Donald Trump.

Negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar’s capital Doha have struggled to gain momentum and violence has risen.

Afghanistan’s presidential palace said on Sunday Austin and Ghani discussed the peace process and concerns over rising violence.