US Defense Secretary Esper in Kabul on unannounced visit

Kabul (AFP) –


US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Kabul Sunday on an unannounced visit, an Afghan official said.

Esper's visit -- his first to Afghanistan since being confirmed as Pentagon chief in July -- comes amid deep uncertainty about the fate of America's military mission in Afghanistan after talks between Washington and the Taliban collapsed.

According to Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry, Esper was due to meet with "key leaders and receive an operational update".

The United States and the Taliban were last month on the brink of signing a deal that would have seen US forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan in return for various insurgent security commitments.

But negotiations collapsed at the last minute when President Donald Trump declared talks "dead" following a Taliban attack that killed a US soldier.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy leading negotiations, has since spoken informally with Taliban officials in Pakistan, raising the possibility the US is seeking to resume talks.

US Forces-Afghanistan, headquartered in Kabul, did not immediately return a request for comment on Esper's visit.