KABUL - US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Saturday to show support for the government and to try to defuse a political crisis fueled in part by a national unity deal he brokered in 2014.
The visit comes at a difficult moment for Afghanistan, with President Ashraf Ghani's government weakened by infighting between political rivals, the economy sinking and the resurgent Taliban stronger than at any time since they were toppled from power in late 2001.
In announcing the visit, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry would "emphasize US support" for the government and its security forces, which NATO officials say fully control no more than 70 percent of Afghanistan.
At the same time, US forces in Afghanistan are due to be almost halved to 5,500 from the current 9,800 by the start of 2017, and the new commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, is conducting a review of security before making his recommendations to Washington some time in June.
Kerry was scheduled to meet Ghani, the victor of Afghanistan's disputed 2014 election, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up. The pair share power under the 2014 National Unity Government agreement.