US Defense Chief in Afghanistan to Assess the Way Ahead

KABUL:Afghan President Ashraf Ghani separately met US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Defence Secretary Mark Esper who arrived here on unannounced visits, the Presidential Office said on Monday.

AP reported that Esper told reporters traveling with him on October 20 that he thought Washington could reduce troop numbers to around 8,600 without hindering counterterrorism efforts targeting Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) militants.

In terms of the US goals for Afghanistan, Esper said the main objective is still for the Taliban and the Afghan government to broker a peace deal.

The US has about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan as part of the US-led coalition.

At the last minute, Trump canceled a secret meeting between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban last month after the Taliban took responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a USA soldier.

Afghan election officials on October 19 postponed the scheduled announcement of preliminary results of that election amid speculation that almost one-quarter of the votes might be tossed out over failures in identification procedures. He added that an agreement could decrease the number of US troops in the country without affecting counter-terrorism operations.

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Esper deliberate to fulfill along with his prime commanders in Afghanistan because the USA works to find out the way in which forward within the 18-year warfare.

"It's the right moment and the right opportunity to maybe go one step beyond a simple reduction in violence and explore ways in which a ceasefire... will take place", Kobia told Kabul journalists. "The idea is really to see how we can move the cease-fire idea forward instead of leaving it for later". "A cease-fire would be a token, a guarantee of goodwill and good preparation for the normalization of these relationships", he said.

Despite pulling off a safer presidential election than expected, Afghanistan looks headed for prolonged political uncertainty, with the two front-runners claiming victory before ballots are tallied and signalling they would not accept defeat.

Results were supposed to be released Saturday but have been indefinitely delayed due to "technical issues", the Independent Election Commission said.

In the meantime, violence in Afghanistan continues unabated.

Pierre Mayaudon, head of the European Union delegation in Afghanistan, said a delay of a few days to finalise results was legitimate to ensure votes were fairly counted. He has complained that the US has been serving as policemen in Afghanistan, and says that's not the American navy's job.

  • Sonia Alvarado