KABUL – United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrived on a surprise visit to Kabul on Friday to meet the Afghan president at a time when Washington is trying to make headway in Afghanistan after 17 years of war.
Mattis’ visit, in the middle of his tour of the region, comes unexpectedly as is usual owing to security concerns, and no details about his activities or the duration of his stay in the Afghan capital have been revealed.
“US Defense Secretary Mattis and General Dunford the chairman of the joint Chiefs of staff arrived in Kabul. And will be having meeting with President (Ashraf) Ghani. Details will be shared later,” Afghan presidential spokesperson Haroon Chakhansuri said on Twitter.
The information office of the US and United Nations mission in Afghanistan confirmed Mattis’ arrival but did not disclose any details about his agenda.
The arrival of the US secretary of defense coincides with the recent takeover by Austin Miller from John Nicholson as NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and US Forces Afghanistan.
Mattis, who came to the Afghan capital on Friday morning from New Delhi, had, along with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, discussed with their Indian counterparts, Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj respectively, the importance of both India and the US in Afghanistan.
New Delhi and Washington reiterated their support for an Afghan-led peace process in a joint statement on Thursday, in which the latter acknowledged the former’s longstanding and ongoing contribution to Afghanistan as well as India’s role in its neighbor’s development and stability.
The same subject was addressed by Pompeo and Mattis during their stopover in Pakistan, where the secretary of state stressed the need for Pakistan “to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan.”