KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III landed in Afghanistan’s capital Sunday morning, becoming the first member of President Biden’s cabinet to set foot in the country that is home to America’s longest war.
The United States is tentatively set to withdraw American forces from the country on May 1, the date set in an agreement signed by the Trump administration and the Taliban more than a year ago.
Speaking to reporters before his departure from Afghanistan, Mr. Austin declined to comment on whether the Taliban had met their obligations under that agreement, which would trigger the departure of U.S. forces from a country where they have had a continuous presence since 2001.
“It’s obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country,” Mr. Austin said. “We’d really like to see that violence come down, and I think if it does come down it can begin to set the conditions for some really fruitful diplomatic work.”
that meeting the deadline would be “tough.” On Saturday, speaking with reporters in India, Mr. Austin expressed confidence that he could remove all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, should the president direct him to do so.
The defense secretary’s visit to Afghanistan came at the end of more than a week of travel across the Pacific during which he reassured allies that they would have the United States’ support in countering potential threats from China.
First, at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, the secretary was briefed by Adm. Philip S. Davidson on various threats in the region and how American military assets have been deployed in response. Flying next to Japan and South Korea, Mr. Austin joined Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken for talks with the foreign and defense ministers of both nations.