Pompeo’s Last Push for Afghan Negotiations, Amid US Troop Withdrawal

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, arrived in Qatar this Saturday to meet with Taliban negotiators and the Afghan government, at a time when the United States is accelerating its withdrawal from Afghanistan despite persistent violence.

This Saturday, at least eight people were killed and another 31 wounded in a rocket attack on the center of Kabul, in densely populated areas of the Afghan capital, near the Green Zone where embassies and international companies are located.

The attack was claimed in the afternoon by the jihadist group Islamic State.

Earlier, the Afghan government had blamed the Taliban, who denied being the perpetrators.

In this context of tension, the State Department announced that Pompeo will hold separate meetings in Doha, where the inter-Afghan negotiations are taking place.

On February 29, he attended in the Qatari capital the signing of a historic agreement between the United States and the Taliban to end the longest US military intervention in history.

Mike Pompeo will also meet with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his time in Doha, the diplomatic base of the Afghan insurgents.

– Withdrawal of troops –

Donald Trump’s minister, who arrived from Abu Dhabi, ends this weekend in the Gulf a tour of seven countries in Europe and the Middle East, while the outgoing president, who still does not recognize the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the elections of the November 3, accelerates his end-of-term priorities.

This week, the Pentagon announced the withdrawal of some 2,000 more troops from Afghanistan between now and January 15, five days before the inauguration of the president-elect, and only 2,500 will remain.

The timetable established in the agreement signed between Washington and the Taliban sets the complete withdrawal of troops in mid-2021, but based on conditions that, according to several observers, have not yet been met.

Trump promised on several occasions that he would end his country’s “endless wars”, including in Afghanistan, where the US military intervened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Washington’s European allies, as well as certain Republican figures, expressed concern about this withdrawal, which many consider premature.

Joe Biden, for his part, also wants to end the war in Afghanistan. Sign of a possible continuity in this delicate matter, several voices ask the Democrat that once he reaches the White House, keep the US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad in office.

– Rise of violence –

The Taliban have held talks with the Afghan government for the first time since September 12, although those discussions were on the verge of fiasco due to disagreements.

The talks have shown few signs of progress in two months, but several sources told . on Friday that the two sides appeared to have resolved a key point of dispute over the rules of the negotiations.

These negotiations began after the agreement between the Taliban and Washington, in which the United States agreed to withdraw its troops in exchange for security guarantees and for a peace dialogue to begin.

But violence has escalated across the country, where the Taliban have carried out dozens of daily attacks on Afghan security forces.

The withdrawal of a part of the troops before January 15 was criticized by the inhabitants of Kabul, who fear that the Taliban will take advantage of the situation to start a new wave of fighting.

On the other hand, the Kabul authorities fear that the insurgents will harden their position in the negotiations, where key issues such as women’s rights are at stake.

In the last six months, the Taliban have carried out 53 suicide attacks and caused 1,250 explosions, which caused 1,210 deaths and 2,500 civilian injuries, according to official figures.

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