US defense chief meets Afghan president

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. They are believed to have discussed a planned withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan as early as April 30.

Austin made a surprise visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul on Sunday. It was his first trip to the country since becoming the Pentagon chief.

The Afghan presidential palace said both sides expressed concerns about rising violence in Afghanistan, and agreed to promote peace negotiations.

Austin told reporters after the talks that if the level of violence subsides, "it can begin to set the conditions for some really fruitful diplomatic work."

He added that US President Joe Biden will, "at some point in time," set a specific date for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan.

The Biden administration has been reviewing a peace agreement signed by the preceding administration under then president Donald Trump and the Taliban on February 29 last year.

The pact commits Washington to withdraw all US military forces from Afghanistan within 14 months following the deal's announcement.

The US has reduced its force levels in Afghanistan to 2,500.