Lloyd Austin reaffirms commitment to US-Afghan defense partnership with Ghani, Abdullah
Washington [US]: US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin III on Friday met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, wherein he reaffirmed Washington's commitment to an enduring defense relationship with Kabul.
According to a statement by the US Department of Defense, the Secretary also stressed that the Department is deeply invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan, and reiterated US support for the continued competency of the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
Ghani, Abdullah and Austin discussed the winding down of the Resolute Support Mission and with that the transition to a new relationship with Afghanistan and with the Afghan forces.
Both sides also reaffirmed the importance of ensuring that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists who threaten the Afghan people, the United States, or our Allies, as per the statement.
Austin and Ghani each acknowledged the shared sacrifices of both the US and Afghan forces, and the impact these sacrifices have had on our two nations and the families of the fallen.
The visit comes amid the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Ghani and Abdullah are likely to discuss how the United States and Afghanistan will continue to work together in the future.
Biden had earlier announced that the US will start its final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan on May 1 and complete its pullout ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F Kirby said in a statement that during the visit of Afghan leaders, Secretary Austin will emphasize the US' enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan and to the department's goal of ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the US homeland.
The State Department is in the lead in this effort, Pentagon Press Secretary said, but the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Defense also have roles in getting these people to safety.
Kirby said everyone in the US government takes this mission very seriously. "We know we have an obligation to these men and women and their families, and we're working our way through how best to meet that obligation," he said.
"President Biden's decision to withdraw US forces leaves our Afghan partners alone to confront threats that his own top advisors acknowledge are grave and growing worse," McConnell said in a statement. (ANI)