DOHA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taleban in Doha yesterday, amid signs of progress in their talks as Washington speeds up its withdrawal. Pompeo’s visit comes in the wake of a rocket attack which struck densely populated areas of Kabul, killing at least eight people in the latest outbreak of violence in the Afghan capital. The Taleban denied responsibility and the Islamic State group claimed the deadly strike.
Pompeo met separately with the Afghan government and Taleban negotiation teams in a luxury hotel in the Qatari capital. “I would be most interested in getting your thoughts on how we can increase the probability of a successful outcome”, Pompeo said as he met the Afghan government side, noting the shared interest in such a scenario. He also met Qatar’s ruler, Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the foreign minister, on his stop in Doha, which is the Taleban’s base for diplomacy.
The outgoing top US diplomat is on a seven-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East, as President Donald Trump shores up late-term priorities. Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it would soon pull some 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan, speeding up the timeline established in a February agreement between Washington and the Taleban that envisions a full US withdrawal in mid-2021.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to end “forever wars”, including in Afghanistan, America’s longest-ever conflict that began with an invasion to dislodge the Taleban following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks. President-elect Joe Biden, in a rare point of agreement with Trump, also advocates winding down the Afghanistan war, although analysts believe he will not be as wedded to a rapid withdrawal.
The Taleban are speaking to Afghanistan’s government for the first time. The talks started on Sept 12 in Doha but almost immediately faltered over disagreements about the agenda, the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations. Several sources told AFP on Friday that the two sides appear to have resolved some of the issues, however.
Among the sticking points so far, the Taleban and the Afghan government have struggled to agree on common language on two main issues. The Taleban are insisting on adherence to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, but government negotiators say this could be used to discriminate against Hazaras, who are predominantly Shiite, and other minorities. Another contentious topic is how the US-Taleban deal will shape a future Afghan peace deal and how it will be referred to. – AFP
Source: Kuwait Times