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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Afghanistan on Sunday for a previously unannounced visit, where he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Politico reports.

Why it matters: Austin's visit comes as the U.S. continues to debate whether to abide by an agreement, brokered by the Trump administration, to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1.

  • During his visit to New Delhi on Saturday, Austin told reporters that as far as he knew Biden "has not made a decision or made any announcements on when he'll decide to remove" U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to CNN.

What they're saying: Austin expressed concerns about the country's security situation.

  • “It’s obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country, we’d really like to see that violence come down,” Austin said, per Politico.
  • “If it does come down, it can begin to set the conditions for some really fruitful diplomatic work.”
  • “There is 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’s necessary to bring about a responsible end, a negotiated settlement to the war."

The big picture: Top U.S. generals have warned that pulling out of the country before a diplomatic deal is reached with the Taliban could spell trouble for President Ghani's hold on power, according to Politico.

  • While Biden has admitted that completing a full withdrawal by May 1 will be "tough," on Friday the Taliban warned that if the U.S. does not withdraw by that date there will be a "reaction," The Washington Post reports.
  • Turkey on Friday announced that it will be hosting an April peace summit requested by the Biden administration "to jump-start negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban," per The Washington Post.

What's more: Two powerful Senate chairmen have questioned plans to withdraw all U.S. troops by May 1, potentially providing Biden with cover should he change is his mind, Axios previously reported.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 6 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.