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23 Mar, 2020 19:31

Pompeo to meet Taliban in Doha in bid to shore up faltering Afghanistan peace deal

Pompeo to meet Taliban in Doha in bid to shore up faltering Afghanistan peace deal

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to meet with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, in an effort to revive the collapsing peace deal between the two parties, despite failure to reach a separate deal with the Afghan government.

Pompeo is set to sit down with chief Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar and other officials from the militant group on Monday in order “to press the Taliban to continue to comply with the agreement signed last month,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

While the US and Taliban reached an agreement last month to begin drawing down American forces in exchange for a reduction in attacks, the absence of a separate deal between the militant group — which controls more than half of Afghanistan — and President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been a sticking point. The two sides clashed over the release of prisoners, with Kabul demanding guarantees the Taliban detainees would not return to the battlefield once released.

Further complicating the issue is Ghani’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who has also claimed to be the rightful leader of Afghanistan since September’s election. Pompeo was in Kabul on Monday attempting to mediate between the two would-be presidents in the hope of selecting a negotiating team to represent the government in talks with the Taliban.

Negotiations for the release of the prisoners finally began on Sunday, with the Taliban returning to the table after initially refusing to speak to the Afghan government until all 5,000 prisoners mentioned in the initial agreement with the US were released.

Also on rt.com Pompeo in Kabul on unannounced visit to discuss Taliban deal with Afghan political rivals

Under the terms of the deal with the Taliban, the US will remove thousands of troops from the country over the next 135 days, bringing its total presence down from 13,000 to 8,600 in a process which has reportedly already begun. 

The US departure has not been stopped, despite continued attacks by the Taliban on Afghan forces — at least one of which led the US to conduct a “defensive” airstrike in response.

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