(MENAFN - Trend News Agency) Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan says there is no order to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan and the Afghan government should participate in peace talks with the Taliban, in remarks on a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Monday, Trend reports citing Al Jazeera.
Shanahan met the US commander and troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the unannounced one-day visit, his first in his new role.
Reports that Donald Trump, president of the United States wants to withdraw about half of the estimated 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan, has raised concerns among Afghan and regional officials about the effect it might have on security in the country.
Afghan troops have been struggling to contain Taliban forces that control or contest about half of the country and a growing number of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
Shanahan said the US has "strong security interests in the region" which would determine what happened with US troop numbers.
"I have not been directed to step down our forces in Afghanistan," Shanahan said.
"I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability."
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