US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during an unannounced visit to Kabul met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday afternoon, the Presidential Palace said.

In a statement, the presidential palace said Austin and Ghani discussed the peace process and concerns over upsurge in violence. There was, however, no mention of the US meeting a May 1 deadline to pull its forces out of Afghanistan.

Austin said on Twitter he had come to “listen and learn”, on his first trip to the country since his appointment by Biden.

“This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with [Biden],” he added.

They stressed that enduring and just peace is the solution for the current situation in Afghanistan, the Palace said.

Austin reassured that the United States is supporting Afghanistan in this respect, it added.

The defence secretary’s trip comes as the Biden administration is reviewing the Doha agreement with the Taliban while also keeping all options open, including May 1 deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

The US media reported last week that President Joe Biden is considering keeping US troops in Afghanistan until November.

It quoted a source saying that in recent discussions with members of his national security team, Biden has pushed back against the Defense Department’s efforts to keep US troops in Afghanistan beyond May 1. But he has been persuaded to consider a six-month extension.

VIOLENCE: Six border force members, including a commander, were killed in a roadside bomb blast in the Kushk Rabat Sangi district, north of Herat province, on Sunday afternoon, provincial Governor Waheed Qatali said.

He said the blast targeted a Humvee vehicle of security force members.

Meanwhile, seven people were killed and three wounded in various incidents in capital Kabul.

A vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Chahar Asiab district on Sunday morning, killing five members of one family.

Their relatives said that the family was on its way to the Lalandar area for a Nawruz celebrations.

In another roadside bomb blast occurred in Bagrami district last night, a police official was killed and another was injured, police said.

In the third incident in Kabul, one person was killed and two were wounded when unidentified armed men opened fire in Qargha lake in Paghman district.


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