Pence visits Afghanistan, says US will "see this through"
Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to meet its leaders and underscore US commitment to the country four months after President Donald Trump agreed to an open-ended war against insurgents here.
Pence arrived on a military plane at Bagram Airfield under the cover of darkness on Thursday night after leaving Washington on Wednesday night. He then flew by helicopter to Kabul, where he met President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah at the presidential palace.
Pence told the leaders he hoped his presence there was tangible evidence that the United States was "here to see this through."
In a reversal of his campaign call for a swift withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Trump in August pledged a stepped-up military campaign against Taliban insurgents and signalled the United States would send more troops to fight in what is the longest war in its history.
At the end of August, there were some 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan and more have since arrived.
Ghani expressed gratitude to the US government and said Afghanistan's partnership with the United States was cemented in sacrifice.
Pence told reporters the strategy of increased troops on the ground and greater authorities for military leaders was paying dividends.
"The results are really beginning to become evident around the country," he said, adding that Ghani and Abdullah had said "they've begun to see a sea change in the attitudes among the Taliban." Pence said their hope was that "eventually the enemy will tire of losing" and be willing to talk peace.
Asked if more troops would be needed, Pence said that would be a decision for Trump in the days ahead.
Pence said he pressed the Afghan leaders for political reforms and Ghani assured him that an election commission was developing a framework for parliamentary elections in 2018. (Reuters)