Acting Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit as the United States seeks to support the Kabul government while negotiating peace with the Taliban.

The US diplomat leading the talks has expressed hope at finding a deal before Afghan presidential elections scheduled for July, as President Donald Trump calls for an end to American military involvement in Afghanistan.

The Taliban consider the Kabul administration a US puppet but Ghani’s allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process.

The insurgents have also met with a high-ranking delegation of Afghan politicians including chief Ghani rivals in Moscow last week to discuss their role in the country’s future and a possible path towards peace.