Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made unannounced visits to both Afghanistan and Iraq on Monday, meeting with officials in the two enduring war zones.
Tillerson first flew from Qatar to Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul in Afghanistan, where he met with President Ashraf Ghani and "reaffirmed the U.S.-Afghan commitment to achieving peace, stability and long-term prosperity," following 16 years of conflict, U.S. authorities said.
Tillerson also outlined the Trump administration’s new South Asia strategy, which "makes clear" the United States' commitment to working with the Afghan government, partners in the region and to "achieve peace in Afghanistan and deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten that goal," according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
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The U.S. Embassy said Ghani "reiterated his support for the new U.S. strategy."
After about two hours of meetings, Tillerson returned to Doha, Qatar. He then departed for Baghdad for talks with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for the second time in as many days. They discussed healing a Kurdish fight with the central government, accelerating post-Islamic State reconstruction projects for Iraq’s liberated towns and cities, and more, the Associated Press reported.
Tillerson's surprise stops in the two countries were part of a week-long trip to the Middle East, South Asia and Europe that started in Saudi Arabia. He will visit Pakistan on Tuesday, before heading to India.
President Trump outlined a revamped strategy for Afghanistan in August, with measures including more troops, lifting restrictions on commanders in the field imposed by the Obama administration, and increasing pressure on Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven to militant groups along its border.