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US Defence Chief Arrives in Kabul on 1st Trip to Afghanistan Amid Concerns over Troops Presence

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was expected to meet with senior Afghan government officials, including President Ashraf Ghani.

State media reports that US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived on 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 US 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 US doesn't meet the deadline. Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban negotiation team, told reporters that if US 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." (AP) .

first published:March 21, 2021, 17:16 IST