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Afghan officials were treated to a surprise visit by the acting US Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, who arrived unannounced, apparently to discuss peace talks and the prospects for American military presence in the region.

Khalilzad recently finished a similar trip during which his talks with the Taliban produced a tentative framework agreement, but he warned last week that the negotiations are far from finished.

While military leaders are proceeding with a plan to pull American troops out of Syria, ending a ground mission against the Islamic State, officials say a decision has not been reached to withdraw from Afghanistan, where US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces support local forces battling the Taliban and other militants.

Acting secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan greets an Afghan commando at Camp Commando, afghanistan, on February 11, 2019.

Shanahan said the United States has "strong security interests in the region" which will determine what happens with U.S. troop numbers.

USA officials have held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar since previous year in what is widely seen as the most serious bid yet for peace in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted by US-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

Some senior Afghan officials are anxious about possible US concessions to the Taliban and the Kabul government's exclusion from the recent discussions, which have taken place in the gulf state of Qatar.

Khalilzad has expressed hope of finding a deal before Afghan presidential elections scheduled for July, but has emphasized that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground.

"Our demand about having an official political office is clear, we want that our office in Doha is recognised by the global community and the United Nations", Shahin said.

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Shanahan, 56, has said his priorities would include the impending US troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China's military might.

"We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement", Mr. Trump said in his State of the Union address to Congress last week, "but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace". Shanahan had been Mattis' No 2.

But the Afghan leader, welcoming Shanahan to his 19th-century palace in central Kabul, made no mention of that to Shanahan in introductory remarks, which were witnessed by reporters. So far, though, he noted that the Taliban have been unwilling to take this step, arguing that the government is illegitimate.

In addition to battling the Taliban, U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan are focused on an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, comprised of foreign fighters largely from Pakistan.

An Afghan official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said even the suggestion of USA troops leaving was unsafe. Military officials have taken part in some of the meetings with the Taliban.

'I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability'.

"The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future".

"In short, the USA may find it hard to convince Afghans to permit a heavily counterterrorism or even counterterrorism-only mission without making other concessions and at least agreeing to sustain funding for the Afghan security forces", he said.

Officials have expressed concern that Afghan security forces, already stretched thin, could crumble if US troops leave.