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Tillerson Affirms Afghanistan Commitments In Unannounced Visit

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps off the plane as he arrives in Qatar after returning from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Monday. Tillerson paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and other officials.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent an unannounced visit to Afghanistan outlining elements of a peace strategy he says the Trump administration will commit to, on a conditional basis.

"It's not an unlimited commitment. He's also made it clear it's not a blank-check commitment," Tillerson told reporters who had landed with him at Bagram Air Force Base on Monday.

Among strategies to end the conflict, Tillerson emphasized anti-corruption reforms, which he said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured him would continue. The secretary also invited members of the Taliban who would "renounce violence" to the negotiating table.

"There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever, they don't want their children to fight forever," said Tillerson.

Unsurprisingly, Tillerson set his sights on Pakistan, which the Trump administration has made a key part of its Afghanistan strategy.

"The secretary says he's also pushing Pakistan to deny safe haven to the Taliban and other terrorist groups," NPR's Michele Kelemen, who's traveling with Tillerson, tells our Newscast unit.

According to Michele, Tillerson says "Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan."

Tillerson, who is on a week-long trip that began in Saudi Arabia and will also take him to Pakistan and India, arrived without public announcement due to security concerns. Last month, an unannounced visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary James Mattis was marked by a rocket attack on the airport in Kabul.

After stopping back in Doha, Tillerson also made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Monday.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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