Kabul: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a brief, unannounced visit to Kabul on Monday, and reaffirmed the US’ commitment to working with the Afghan government and partners in the region to achieve peace in Afghanistan and “deny safe havens to terrorists who threaten that goal”.
Tillerson’s visit, ahead of his visit to Doha, Qatar, and Pakistan, was shrouded in secrecy and comes amid a spike in Taliban violence in the country, that has claimed around 200 lives in the past week.
Tillerson, who was in Kabul for just over two hours, met President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah and National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar. He then departed for Doha.
According to a US Embassy statement, Secretary Tillerson and President Ghani met in Kabul and together reaffirmed the US-Afghan commitment to achieving peace, stability and long-term prosperity in Afghanistan.
“The Secretary stated that the new US strategy for South Asia makes clear the United States’ commitment to working with the government of Afghanistan and with partners across the region to achieve peace in Afghanistan and deny safe havens to terrorists who threaten that goal. President Ghani reiterated his support for the new US strategy and emphasized his government’s commitment to reforms aimed at ensuring the safety, security and well-being of all Afghans.”
According to a government source, the discussions centered around counterterrorism, the new US strategy in Afghanistan, the peace process and bilateral relations, Tolo News reported.
Tillerson’s visit came as Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced that a key Haqqani member suspected of being behind a number of suicide attacks in parts of Afghanistan, especially Kabul city, has been arrested in Kabul.
The suspect, named Mawlawi Bashir, is an important member of Haqqani and is believed to have ties with the Taliban, the NDS said.
A source from the NDS said Bashir also had ties with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, and is suspected of having been involved in a number of deadly attacks in the last 12 years in Afghanistan, Tolo News reported.
According to the NDS, Bashir was also involved in getting suicide bombers into Kabul city.
He is also believed to have been involved in explosions, bombings and kidnappings of Afghan businessmen and foreigners. Bashir reportedly had sanctuaries in Logar and Maidan Wardak.
In related news, the CIA has decided to send in small, experienced teams to Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban commanders – a move that has been welcomed by the Afghan government.
The Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday welcomed the move by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to ramp up efforts to target Taliban leaders and commanders in Afghanistan, Tolo reported.
The top US commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson has said based on the new US strategy for Afghanistan, not only will the pressure be increased on insurgents, but the countries that support them will also come under serious pressure.
The CIA’s move comes on the heels of a spate of deadly attacks around the country, especially in the cities, which have killed over 200 civilians and military personnel.
Tillerson is on a five-nation tour and will hold discussions with high-ranking officials in Pakistan on Tuesday.
From Pakistan, Tillerson goes to India.
President Trump outlined a revamped strategy for Afghanistan in August, with measures including more troops, lifting restrictions on commanders in the field imposed by the Obama administration, and increasing pressure on Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven to militant groups along its border.