US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Kabul to meet Afghan leaders about peace talks, said Mujiburahman Rahimi, a spokesman for the Chief Executive Office, on Wednesday.
Khalilzad met with President Ghani at the Presidential Palace and briefed the president about the US-Taliban talks in Doha and the recent Islamabad meeting, said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ghani.
His trip comes after a break was called in the US-Taliban negotiations following a Taliban-claimed attack on Bagram airbase on December 11. Before the break, sources said that the discussions were focused on a reduction of violence, a ceasefire and intra-Afghan negotiations.
Khalilzad on December 14 visited Pakistan and met with Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and they discussed the security situation and the ongoing Afghan reconciliation, said a Pakistani military spokesman.
Khalilzad also met with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad. Qureshi assured Khalilzad that Pakistan will continue to "sincerely play the role of facilitator in the Afghan peace process," and he stated that peace in Afghanistan is imperative for peace and stability in the region. Qureshi also reiterated Pakistan's stance that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict.
On Monday, US Secretary Defense Mark Esper speaking to reporters said that US troops numbers could be lowered in Afghanistan without a peace agreement.
“I think, again, today the best solution for Afghanistan is a political agreement. But I think we could go down to a lower number with or without that political agreement,” Esper said.
Esper stated he would like to reduce numbers in Afghanistan to “either bring those troops home, so they can refit and retrain for other missions or/and be redeployed to the Indo-Pacific to face off our greatest challenge in terms of the great power competition that's vis-a-vis China.”
On Monday, US Senator Lindsey Graham at a Kabul press conference spoke of a possible troop reduction in the next year and offered a suitable remaining force level of “8,600” troops, which, he said, is a number being discussed.
The US has approximately 13,000 troops in Afghanistan and about 5,000 of them are doing counterterrorism missions. The remainder are part of NATO’s mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.