World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who was sworn in on Tuesday, landed in Kabul on Saturday morning and met with Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, General John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and General Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command.
Addressing a press conference alongside President Ghani, Carter said no decisions have been made with regards to the troop withdrawal but President Barack Obama will discuss the U.S. military exit when President Ghani visits the White House next month.
Lauding the peaceful transfer of power in Kabul, he said the Afghan unity government offers new promise for a more effective partnership with Washington in stabilizing the country.
Carter did not describe in detail what changes Obama is considering to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
Answering a question, the U.S. Defense Secretary added that a small number of ISIS militants are present in Afghanistan.
Before arriving in Kabul, Carter told reporters traveling with him that he’s going to Afghanistan to “make my own assessment of that progress and my own assessment of the way forward.”
The Afghan president thanked his U.S. counterpart for showing a readiness to rethink the troop withdrawal schedule considering the ground realities in Afghanistan.
NATO’s 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan ended in December last year. Currently, a little over 11, 000 foreign troops, mostly Americans, are stationed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Program, aimed at training and assisting Afghan forces.
According to the current plan, half of the U.S. troops are to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year, a policy that has drawn sharp criticism from Republicans in Congress.
Carter is visiting Afghanistan following the deadliest year on record for Afghan security forces and civilians.
Ghani expressed optimism regarding peace talks with the Taliban to secure lasting peace in Afghanistan. On Friday, he lauded Pakistan’s efforts in this regard.
“We welcome the recent position Pakistan has taken in pronouncing Afghanistan’s enemy as Pakistan’s,” Ghani said in a statement.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudery Nissar has been quoted as saying that both countries are enjoying unprecedented levels of cooperation that could do wonders in their counter-terrorism drive.
There have been reports about the Taliban expressing willingness to resume the stalled peace dialogue with the Kabul government.