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Kerry Makes Visit to Afghanistan Amid Growing Political Crisis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confers with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah prior to a joint news conference by U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House on March 25.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan in an attempt to defuse a political crisis fueled partly by a national unity deal he brokered after the disputed presidential election in 2014.

Kerry's visit on April 9 came with growing political infighting in the national unity government headed by President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry would "emphasize U.S. support" for Kabul and its security forces, which is struggling to fend off a growing Taliban insurgency.

The United States has pulled out the majority of its troops in the country, with only about 9,800 remaining. The number of troops is due to be almost halved to 5,500 by the start of 2017.

Kerry was scheduled to meet together with Ghani and Abdullah in Kabul, before holding separate talks with both of them.

Kerry will also take part in a set of security, governance, and economic development talks with the Afghan foreign minister.

The national unity government agreement expires in October, when parliamentary elections are due to take place, though many observers believe the vote will be postponed until next spring because promised electoral reforms have not been implemented.

Under the agreement, Abdullah's role as chief executive was to segue into a prime ministerial role after the parliamentary elections.

Ghani and Abdullah both claimed victory in the 2014 election, which was marred by widespread fraud.

The political deal brokered by Kerry put an end to the crisis in 2014, but the unity government formed as a result has been anything but united.

Kerry is also expected to discuss with Afghan officials the peace process with the Taliban.

A four-nation group has been trying to set up direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group -- which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States – expected a meeting in March.

But the Taliban has flatly rejected holding direct talks with Kabul.

Meanwhile, in a rare boost for the government, Afghan lawmakers approved the administration's nominees for interior minister and attorney general on April 9.

But wrangling persists over key security portfolios.

The defense portfolio is still formally held by an acting minister after more than a year.

Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, is also without a permanent director after the former head resigned in December.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP