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Pentagon chief travels to Afghanistan to assess state of peace process

Mark Esper
Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Mark Esper arrived in Kabul on Sunday for his first visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary, as he looked to jump-start peace talks that President Trump declared "dead" after a Taliban bombing killed an American servicemember in early September, AP reports.

The state of play: Esper's visit comes almost a month after Afghanistan's Sept. 28 election, the results of which have still not been announced amid technical ballot difficulties and allegations of fraud. More than 1,100 Afghan civilians were killed and 3,139 wounded between July and September, marking the deadliest three-month stretch of violence for civilians in the past decade, the Washington Post reports.

  • Esper said he plans to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and that "the aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point," per AP.
  • The U.S. currently has about 14,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. Trump had ordered the withdrawal of about 5,500 troops in conjunction with a peace deal struck with the Taliban, but September's events derailed his plans to end America's longest war.

Go deeper: Trump orders stepped-up military operations in Afghanistan