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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III (L) greets the commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Army Gen. Scott Miller, upon arrival at Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 21, 2021. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III (L) greets the commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, Army Gen. Scott Miller, upon arrival at Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 21, 2021. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday amid a tour of Asia.

Austin shared a photo of a meeting between himself and Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani on Twitter Sunday morning during the previously unannounced visit.

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"I am here to listen and learn," Austin told reporters according to a Department of Defense statement. "It will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with the president, it's very helpful."

Austin did not comment on whether the Taliban has met the necessary conditions under a 2020 peace agreement to qualify for full withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and said he did not bring the issue up with Ghani.

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"What I will say is that it is obvious the level of violence remains pretty high in the country," he said. "We'd really like to see that violence come down. If it does not come down it can begin to set the condition for some really fruitful diplomatic work."

About 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan since former President Donald Trump reached an agreement with Taliban negotiators last year to withdraw a portion of troops in the nation by May 1.

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Prior to arriving in Afghanistan, Lloyd told reporters in India that President Joe Biden, "has not made a decision or made any announcements" on when he plans to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, NBC News reported.

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"In terms of an end date, setting a specific end date for withdrawal, that's the domain of my boss ... that's the decision that the president will make at some point in time in terms of how he wants to approach this going forward," he said. "What we want to see is a responsible end to this conflict."

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