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US Defense Secretary in Kabul

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Kabul on Sunday for an unannounced visit, an Afghan official said.

Esper’s first visit to Afghanistan since taking over the Pentagon in July comes amid deep uncertainty about the fate of the US military mission in Afghanistan after negotiations between Washington and the Taliban collapsed.

Defense Ministry spokesman Fawaz Aman said Esber will meet “the most prominent Afghan leaders and receive a briefing on the operations.”

Last month, the United States and the Taliban were close to signing an agreement to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in return for various security guarantees from the jihadist movement.

But hopes of signing the deal were dashed after US President Donald Trump said talks with the rebels had become “dead” after a Taliban attack that killed a US soldier.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who led the negotiations, spoke informally to Taliban officials during a visit to Pakistan, reinforcing the possibility of Washington seeking to resume negotiations.

US forces in Afghanistan, based in Kabul, did not respond to an AFP request for comment on Esper’s visit.

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