Defense secretary makes first Afghanistan trip as questions swirl ahead of Trump-negotiated May 1 deadline

Defense secretary makes first Afghanistan trip as questions swirl ahead of Trump-negotiated May 1 deadline


U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin commenced his first visit to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, with questions lingering about a Trump-negotiated May 1 deadline to withdraw troops.

Former President Trump negotiated a complete drawdown during his final days, which President Biden then inherited.

After his arrival in Kabul on Sunday, Austin met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

ADDS REFERENCE TO ACTING AFGHAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE YASIN ZIA – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, center, walks on the red carpet with Acting Afghan Minister of Defense Yasin Zia as they review an honor guard at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 21, 2021. Austin arrived in Kabul on his first trip to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, amid swirling questions about how long American troops will remain in the country. (Presidential Palace via AP)

Austin told the president that senior U.S. officials wanted to see “a responsible end to this conflict” and “a transition to something else,” according to the Washington Post.

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“There’s always going to be concerns about things one way or the other, but I think there is a lot of energy focused on doing what is necessary to bring about a responsible end and a negotiated settlement to the war,” Austin said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, meets Afgan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 21, 2021. Austin arrived in Kabul on his first trip to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, amid swirling questions about how long American troops will remain in the country. (Presidential Palace via AP)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, meets Afgan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 21, 2021. Austin arrived in Kabul on his first trip to Afghanistan as Pentagon chief, amid swirling questions about how long American troops will remain in the country. (Presidential Palace via AP)

Biden, like Trump, promised to end the nearly two-decade conflict and bring all remaining troops home.

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Biden labeled the timeline as “tough” but admitted that it “could happen.”

The Taliban on Friday warned of consequences should the U.S. fail to meet the deadline.

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Austin and Ghani discussed and condemned the increase in violence in Afghanistan, according to a statement from the presidential palace.

The statement made no mention of the May 1 deadline.

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In a sharply worded letter to Ghani earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was urgent to make peace in Afghanistan and all options remain on the table.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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