It is Shanahan`s first trip to Afghanistan since taking over the Pentagon’s top job last month.
Mr. Shanahan said he carried no orders from President Trump to begin drawing down the 14,000 American forces deployed there, which remains a key point in ongoing talks with the Taliban.
The trip marked the first time Mr. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who took over as acting Defense secretary following the resignation of James Mattis, has ever been to Afghanistan. He told reporters traveling aboard his plane that he’s encouraged Mr. Trump is searching for ways to end the conflict in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have been fighting since the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
His trip comes at a pivotal moment for the future of Afghanistan, where the central government has struggled to maintain control over much of the country amid a resurgence by the Taliban and other radical Islamist forces, a resurgence that’s included direct assaults on American personnel. New U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad recently held a series of meetings with Taliban officials in Qatar, and while both sides came out optimistic, they are still far from a sweeping cease-fire deal or a recognition by the Taliban of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
The Taliban also is seeking assurances that American forces will soon exit the country, and have even claimed a private accord to pull American forces out by this spring.
Despite reports that Mr. Trump plans to soon order a drawdown of at least half of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Mr. Shanahan said he’s received no such order, and he offered no clarity on when the troops will begin.