March 21, 2021 10:50am
Updated: March 21, 2021 6:03pm
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday arrived in Afghanistan for the first time since being confirmed by the Senate earlier this year to oversee the Pentagon.
State-owned Radio and Television Afghanistan and TOLO Television reported the U.S. defense secretary's arrival in the country, according to the Associated Press. Austin met with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani and other top government officials. "Austin met with Ghani and according to a statement released by the presidential palace both sides condemned the increase in violence in Afghanistan," the AP noted.
According to the wire service, the Washington Post reported that Austin said senior American officials desire to see "a responsible end to this conflict" and "a transition to something else."
"There’s always going to be concerns about things one way or the other, but I think there is a lot of energy focused on doing what is necessary to bring about a responsible end and a negotiated settlement to the war," Austin said.
The trip comes as the May 1 deadline for U.S. troop removal from Afghanistan approaches. The deadline is connected to an agreement that the prior presidential administration struck with the Taliban.
According to the AP, President Joe Biden during an ABC News interview indicated that it would be "tough" for America to stick to the deadline, but said that if it is pushed back it would not be by a "lot longer."
The Taliban has signaled that it wants American troops out. An individual on the Taliban negotiation team informed reporters that if the troops remain past 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."