Pompeo says negotiations in Afghanistan likely to be ‘contentious’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said that negotiations set to start this weekend between the warring parties in Afghanistan will likely be “contentious” but are necessary.
Pompeo made the remarks while en route to Doha, Qatar, where the intra-Afghan talks are expected to begin Saturday. The talks mark a major milestone in implementing the withdrawal agreement the Trump administration signed with the Taliban in February.
“It’s taken us longer than I wish that it had to get from Feb. 29th to here, but we expect Saturday morning, for the first time in almost two decades, to have the Afghans sitting at the table together prepared to have what will be contentious discussions about how to bring — move their country forward to reduce violence and deliver what the Afghan people are demanding: a reconciled Afghanistan with a government that reflects the country, that isn’t at war,” Pompeo said.
“It’s their country to figure out how to move forward and make a better life for all Afghan people,” he added.
The Afghan government and the Taliban still appear to be far apart on issues such as a cease-fire and women’s rights, which could put a wrench in ending the 19-year war.
Prisoner releases have been a large reason for delays in peace talks, according to an Associated Press report.
The U.S. military dropped to about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan earlier this summer as part of the withdrawal agreement. Pompeo said that the U.S. is prepared to return troops to Afghanistan if the Taliban breaches the agreement.
“Our commitment to reduce our forces to zero is conditioned on them executing their obligations under the agreement,” Pompeo said Friday. “It’s very clear that the violence levels have to come down to acceptable levels.”
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