By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday briefly visited the Afghan capital Kabul on an unannounced trip to the insurgency-riddled country.
''Great visit to #Afghanistan today with productive discussions on the #AfghanPeaceProcess and the need for credible elections with President @ashrafghani, CEO, @afgexecutive, former President @KarzaiH, political parties, security forces & civil society, including women’s groups,'' he tweeted after meeting top Afghan officials at the Arg, the presidency.
“While we have made it clear to the Taliban we are prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear, we have not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” the local Tolo News quoted him as saying after the meeting. ''Simultaneously, the United States is laying the ground force for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin as soon as possible. Objective of those negotiations is for Afghans to agree on a timeline and a political roadmap for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement,” he added.
Meanwhile, President Ghani's office thanked the U.S. for its efforts for peace, and said all international partners and friends should avoid sporadic and individual effort and instead support unified endeavour for peace.
The visit came as the U.S. and the Taliban are set to hold seventh round of talks for peace later this month in Doha, Qatar.
The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad stressed that the aim behind the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban is a comprehensive peace deal, not a withdrawal agreement.
In a series of tweets ahead of the seventh round of talks with the Taliban, Khalilzad said a comprehensive peace agreement is made up of four inter-connected parts: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a political settlement; and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.
He claimed this is a framework which the Taliban accept. “As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, important to remember we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement,” he tweeted.
Separately, the Taliban’s Qatar office spokesman, Suhail Shaheen claimed that in these talks, the U.S. has agreed to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan and to not intervene in future Afghan affairs.
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Pompeo optimistic about Afghan peace process
By Shadi Khan Saif