US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators in Doha, urging them to step up their peace talks as Washington accelerates its military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Pompeo “called for a significant reduction in violence and urged accelerated discussions on a political roadmap and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” according to the US State Department.
The senior US diplomat met separately with Afghan government and Taliban negotiating teams at a luxury hotel in the Qatari capital, and his meeting with radical Islamist insurgents lasted over an hour.
His visit follows a rocket attack that struck densely populated areas of Kabul, killing at least eight people in the latest outbreak of violence in the Afghan capital. The Taliban denied responsibility and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the deadly strike.
“I would be very interested to know how we can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome,” Pompeo said during his meeting with the Afghan government, stressing the shared interest in such a scenario.
He also met with the leader of Qatar, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the foreign minister, during his stopover in Doha, which is the diplomatic base of the Taliban.
But there were no announcements of a breakthrough in talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government before Pompeo left.
He flew to Abu Dhabi for the next leg of his tour of seven countries in Europe and the Middle East, as President Donald Trump props up end-of-term priorities.
Abdullah Abdullah, president of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, told TBEN that the government and the Taliban were “very close” to breaking the deadlock in the negotiations.
“We are close, we are very close. Let’s hope that we pass this phase and that we will tackle the fundamental questions”, in particular the security, he declared during a visit to Turkey.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced it would soon withdraw some 2,000 troops from Afghanistan, speeding up the timeline set in a February deal between Washington and the Taliban that contemplates a full US withdrawal in mid-2021 .
Trump has repeatedly promised to end “wars forever,” including in Afghanistan, America’s longest-running conflict that began with an invasion to dislodge the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
President-elect Joe Biden, in a rare point of agreement with Trump, also advocates an end to the war in Afghanistan, although analysts believe he won’t be so committed to a quick withdrawal.
The Taliban are addressing the Afghan government for the first time.
The talks began on September 12 in Doha but almost immediately collapsed due to disagreements over the agenda, the basic framework for the discussions and religious interpretations.
Several sources, however, told TBEN on Friday that the two sides appear to have resolved some of the issues.
Among the sticking points to date, the Taliban and the Afghan government have struggled to agree on a common language on two main issues.
The Taliban, who are Sunni extremists, insist on adhering to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, but government negotiators say it could be used to discriminate against the Hazaras, who are predominantly Shia, and other minorities in Afghanistan.
Another controversial topic is how the US-Taliban deal will shape a future Afghan peace deal and how it will be mentioned.
The Doha peace talks opened after the Taliban and Washington signed an agreement in February, with the United States agreeing to withdraw all foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees and a promise from the Taliban to begin negotiations. talks.
Despite the talks, violence has escalated across Afghanistan, with the Taliban stepping up their daily attacks on Afghan security forces.
Trump’s plan to cut troops by January 15 – less than a week before his successor Joe Biden was sworn in – has been criticized in Afghanistan.
Saturday’s strike on the Afghan capital saw a barrage of rockets slam into various parts of central and northern Kabul – including in and around the heavily walled Green Zone which is home to embassies and international businesses.
ISIS said in a statement that 28 Katyusha rockets were fired by “caliphate soldiers.”
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian previously blamed the Taliban, saying “terrorists” fired a total of 23 rockets. However, the Taliban have denied responsibility, saying they “do not shoot indiscriminately in public places.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by The Bharat Express News staff and is posted Platforms.)