Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a surprise visit to Kabul on Sunday afternoon, said a statement issued by the presidential palace.
The surprise visit comes at a time when the Biden administration reviews the Afghan peace process.
Austin said in a tweet that his Kabul visit was helpful.
“This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with
I’m very grateful for my time with President @ashrafghani today. I came to Afghanistan to listen and learn. This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with @POTUS. pic.twitter.com/ZE39tXZqvg
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) March 21, 2021
The meeting comes at a critical time as the stalled Afghan peace process is going to resume in Ankara, Turkey, and the Biden administration is reviewing the May 01 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The US special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, was on regional visits in recent weeks to earn a regional consensus on the Afghan peace process.
The intra-Afghan talks, hosted by the Gulf State of Qatar, stalled after the two sides failed to meet each other’s demands. The Afghan government has been urging the Taliban to agree to a permanent ceasefire, something the group has refused so far.