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Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of Joint Chiefs, makes surprise trip to Afghanistan

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is seen during a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., on July 9. Thursday, he made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to meet with President Ashraf Ghani. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is seen during a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., on July 9. Thursday, he made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to meet with President Ashraf Ghani. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday to meet with President Ashraf Ghani.

Afghan officials said the meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul included Ghani, Milley, Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib and chief of the Afghan army Mohammad Yasin Zia.

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Ghani's office announced the meeting after it had concluded and Milley's trip to Afghanistan was not previously announced.

Milley's surprise visit came at a time of growing violence in Afghanistan between Taliban insurgents and government forces, and it preceded the start of talks for a cease-fire agreement -- the first step in moving forward with a U.S.-brokered peace deal to end the Afghan conflict and remove American forces from the Middle Eastern nation.

"Both sides expressed their concerns over the escalation of violence in Afghanistan and discussed the Afghan peace process and the immediate need for a cease-fire in the country," Ghani's office said.

Peace negotiations arrived at a breakthrough level this month when Taliban and government negotiators made a preliminary agreement to procedural rules, the first written agreement in nearly two decades of fighting. Violence, however, has only risen since then.

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The Afghan government says at least 25 military personnel have been killed in targeted attacks so far in December. At least three people were killed in Kabul in attacks this week, authorities said.

The peace talks are scheduled to resume in Qatar on Jan. 5.

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