Pompeo dashes to Kabul to jumpstart peace process

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an urgent visit to Kabul to reenergize the Afghan peace process amid a political impasse that could derail last month’s deal with the Taliban. The political crisis deepened in Afghanistan after both incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah declared themselves as the winner of the last presidential polls.

The wrangling over leadership could derail the fragile US-Taliban peace deal, signed in Doha, Qatar, last month, to end the Afghan war and withdrawal of the coalition troops. During his visit, Mr Pompeo is expected to help remove the obstacles in the run-up to the upcoming intra-Afghan peace talks that would include the Taliban and end the ongoing political deadlock. The talks are seen as a critical next step in the peace deal that paves the way for the return of the US troops.

“We have forged a deep bond, especially with Afghan security forces, through shared sacrifice in responding to threats to international peace and security since 2001. Underscoring the national priority the United States attaches to helping bring about a political settlement to forty years of devastating war,” Mr Pompeo said. He urged the Afghan leaders to settle their differences and compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“The United States deeply regrets that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have informed Secretary Pompeo that they have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace, and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens,” the US State Department said in a statement.

“The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests. Their failure has harmed the US-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans, and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country,” it said.

As the Afghan leadership failure poses a direct threat to the American national interests, the US government would immediately review its cooperation with Afghanistan, and among other steps, it will reduce its assistance by $1billion this year, it stated. “We are prepared to reduce by another $1 billion in 2021. We will also initiate a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions, and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan. We have made clear to the leadership that we will not back security operations that are politically motivated, nor support political leaders who order such operations or those who advocate for or support parallel government,” the statement said.

It further noted that the failure to establish an inclusive national team to participate in intra-Afghan talks and take practical steps to facilitate prisoner release as a confidence-building measure endangers a political settlement to the conflict and comprehensive ceasefire.

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