US defense chief arrives in Kabul on 1st trip to Afghanistan Kabul Moscow Japan Jens Stoltenberg Nato

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State media reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived Sunday in Kabul on his first trip to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, amid swirling questions about how long American troops will remain in the country.

State-owned Radio and Television Afghanistan and popular TOLO Television reported Austin s arrival in Kabul from India. He was expected to meet with senior Afghan government officials, including President Ashraf Ghani

President Joe Biden said last week in an ABC News interview that it will be “tough” for the U.S. to meet a May 1 deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. But he said that if the deadline, which is laid out in an agreement between former President Donald Trump’s administration and the Taliban is extended, it wouldn’t be by a “lot longer.”

In response, the Taliban on Friday warned of consequences if the U.S. doesn’t meet the deadline. Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban negotiation team, told reporters that if U.S. troops stay beyond May 1, “it will be a kind of violation of the agreement. That violation would not be from our side. . . Their violation will have a reaction.”

Austin was expected to meet with Ghani as well as the newly appointed defense chief Army Chief of Staff Gen. Yasin Zia, who was appointed acting defense minister this week. Washington is reviewing the agreement the Trump administration signed with the Taliban last year .

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