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Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Chris Miller Makes Secret Afghanistan Visit

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U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller speaks at the Pentagon in Washington on November 17.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Chris Miller has held consultations with Afghan officials about on the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban. The Pentagon said in a statement on December 22 that Miller's trip was not announced ahead of time due to security concerns.

Miller held talks with President Ashraf Ghani on the ongoing U.S. military support for the Afghan Army and also met with the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, to discuss "the overall security situation to include the current counterterrorism and Train, Advise and Assist missions, the level of Taliban violence and the ongoing drawdown of U.S. forces," the statement added.

Miller also met with U.S. military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, "where he was able to thank them and acknowledge their sacrifice of being away from their Families during a difficult holiday season," it said.

Violence in Afghanistan has skyrocketed in recent months even as the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators try to hammer out a peace deal that could put an end to decades of war.

The peace talks in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar were suspended earlier this month, three months after they began. They are expected to resume in January.

Last week, U.S. Chief of Staff General Mark Milley traveled to Doha to urge the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan.

There have been regular clashes in various parts of the country and bomb and rocket attacks in Kabul.

On December 22, a roadside bomb killed at least five prison doctors and health workers in Kabul while they were on their way to the country's largest jail, officials said.

The five were on their way to the Pul-i-Charkhi prison housing hundreds of prisoners, including scores of Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban said it was not involved in the attack.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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