Pentagon chief urges speedy discount in Taliban violence | Govt-and-politics

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin smiles as he speaks in Washington during a news conference at the Pentagon on Friday, February 19, 2021.

The Pentagon chief is pushing for an immediate reduction in Taliban violence

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington on Friday, February 19, 2021.


WASHINGTON (AP) – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in his first press conference as Pentagon chief on Friday that progress on the road to peace in Afghanistan and an end to US military participation depends on the Taliban reducing attacks.

“The violence needs to decrease now,” he told reporters.

Austin, a retired four-star army general who oversaw US forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East for three years under the Obama administration, said the Biden administration is “methodically and deliberately” reviewing its next steps in Afghanistan where US troops had been present for nearly 20 years.

The US has about 2,500 troops there, and Austin said there would be no “hasty” retreat.

Under an agreement with the Taliban that the Trump administration signed a year ago this month, the United States promised a gradual withdrawal of troops so that by May 1, 2021, all foreign troops would be gone. For their part, the Taliban pledged to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government, end attacks on American forces and publicly renounce all ties to Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.

Austin suggested that the Taliban fail to honor their commitments.

In a comment on a virtual meeting of the Munich Security Conference on Friday, President Joe Biden gave no indication of his plan for troop levels in Afghanistan. He promised to support the peace process and ensure that Afghanistan does not become a launch pad for international terrorist attacks.

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