“I heard from all of our partners here today that everyone is really desirous of a responsible end,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin said on Sunday.
During an unannounced visit to Kabul, Austin met Afghan, American and coalition leaders to understand the situation in the country and see the way forward to a just peace.
The visiting secretary met President Ashraf Ghani and Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Austin, who also met Ambassador Ross Wilson, told reporters traveling with him: “I am here to listen and learn. It will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing with the president.”
He acknowledged the sacrifices made by service members, diplomats, civilian employees and contractors serving in the country.
Without commenting on whether the Taliban have honoured last year’s Doha agreement, he said the level of violence obviously remained high in the country.
He added: “We’d really like to see that violence come down. If it does come down it can begin to set the condition for some really fruitful diplomatic work.”
The Pentagon chief listened to Ghani to understand his concerns. “That’s what we did. I really had a chance to hear from him and it was very helpful to me,” he Defense Department quoted him as saying.
Reposing complete confidence in Gen. Miller, the secretary hoped the US commander would accomplish his mission and defend foreign troops in Afghanistan
The Presidential Palace, meanwhile, said both Ghani and Austin denounced the escalation in violence and called for a durable and just peace process to address the current situation.
In a tweet, the secretary said: “This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review (of Afghan peace process) we are undergoing here (with President Joe Biden).”
On the deadline for the exit of US forces, Austin said: “That’s the domain of my boss. That’s the… decision that the President Biden will make at some point in time, in terms of how he wants to approach this going forward.