After meeting with Afghan government officials and Taliban leaders in Doha on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the process is moving along at a pace for a full withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan by April or May next year.
Speaking to Breitbart News on Sunday, while flying back to the United States, Pompeo said the full troops withdrawal was conditions-based and that there were three key conditions that needed to be met by the Afghan government and the Taliban in order for this to happen.
“One, there is an obligation they [Taliban] have with respect to foreign terrorist groups — primarily al-Qaeda, but all four terrorist groups — they are not permitted, and the language is very clear that they are not permitted and that they have to break with them.
“Second, they [Afghanistan and Taliban] have to engage in these conversations in a way that is substantive and not just physically sit in the room, but they need to have serious conversations and begin to work their way through it.
“Then, third, they have a responsibility as part of that to ensure that outside actors don’t act as spoilers for this, and there are many hands who would like to see this undone and would like to see America mired in Afghanistan for another 20 years. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban have a responsibility to prevent that,” he told Breitbart.
“Those are the conditions, we’ll measure them. There’s a set of CT metrics that’s pretty clearly laid out. We’ll measure them and the president will make a decision if there’s sufficient compliance to get us to zero. I think we’re on a pathway to achieve that.”
This is in line with the US’s deal with the Taliban signed in Doha in February that stipulates a full drawdown of troops by next spring if conditions are met.
One key condition is that the Taliban break ties with al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups. Another condition is that the Taliban agrees not to harbor terrorist groups, as they were doing prior to the US invasion following the 9/11 attacks.
Pompeo also stated that the US “finally have the Afghans prepared to sit down and have a serious conversation about taking their country forward without all the violence.”
He told Breitbart that President Donald Trump had laid out two objectives. One was to reduce the American footprint in Afghanistan and get its forces home and secondly, to make sure America is protected.
“I think we’re, today, on our way to putting America in a place where we can do both of those things,” he said.
On the start of peace talks Saturday, between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he said the “meetings went as could be expected at the first gathering. They were getting their teams together, getting to know each other, and they began to set out the framework of what negotiations will look like.”
He said there are “some very, very difficult issues and there will be bumps in the road, but back in February, we were hoping that today would come back in March or April. It’s been six months, but I’m happy with the progress that was made today. I think they’ll meet again tomorrow in Doha and then they’ll go back and start on the framework of the negotiations not long after that.”
Sticking Points Discussed
Asked what challenges could be expected ahead of a peace agreement, Pompeo said that the “central challenge” is how power will be shared among the various parties in the country.
“In the end, the central challenge is what will the Afghan government look like,” Pompeo said.
“What will be the power-sharing arrangement? This is a challenge anytime you have throughout history insurgencies and other times when nations have civil strife. We took al-Qaeda out, and the Taliban still have weapons and the capacity to inflict damage.
“We made clear to them when I met with them today [Saturday] — the Taliban — that they have an obligation to reduce violence immediately and significantly so these negotiations can proceed. So there will be issues of power-sharing and how the government is established at the center of the conversation.”
Asked about his meeting with Taliban co-founder and lead negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Pompeo told Breitbart News that he is “convinced” there is a “solution” to the differences between the two sides.
“It’s the third time, maybe the fourth time, that I’ve spoken to him — the second time I’ve met with him in person. They have a very clear set of objectives, of things that they are laying down that they want and they need,” Pompeo said.
“When I understand what the Afghan government wants and needs, and what the people of Afghanistan outside of the Taliban and Taliban-controlled territories want, I’m convinced there is a solution to this. I hope that that’s the case.”
Govt rolls out curfew in 31 provinces to curb Taliban activities
The Afghan government announced Saturday it has imposed a curfew in 31 provinces around the country in a bid to curb Taliban activity.
According to the Ministry of Interior’s deputy spokesman Ahmad Zia Zia, the curfew will come into effect immediately and will be enforced from 10pm to 4am.
Kabul, Nangarhar and Panjshir provinces are the only three that have been exempt.
“Based on the security [situation] officials announced a curfew in 31 provinces; the decision was taken to prevent Taliban activities,” said Zia.
Meanwhile, residents of Kapisa province said that a number of families have been displaced due to clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban in Nijrab, Alasay and Tagab districts.
“Due to the war between ANDSF and Taliban in Nijrab, Alasay and Tagab districts, many of the residents of the districts have been displaced. We want to know what government intends to do about this,” said Shamila Mashal, a civil society activist.
In addition to these districts, heavy clashes have been ongoing between ANDSF and Taliban in Ghazni, Wardak, Takhar, Kunduz, Kunar, Laghman, Herat, Helmand and Nimruz provinces.
Commander of US, NATO forces in Afghanistan is stepping down
The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller is stepping down Monday in a move that marks the symbolic end of the U.S. military mission in the country.
Miller has commanded the military coalition in Afghanistan since August 2018, longer than any previous commanding general in that position and will turn over command of U.S. Forces Afghanistan to the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine General Frank McKenzie.
NBC reported that as the head of CENTCOM, McKenzie already had authority over Afghanistan and many of the neighboring countries. He will continue to work from CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and his forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar.
Miller is expected to retire, three defense officials said, NBC reported.
Biden: US military mission in Afghanistan will end Aug 31
The United States’ military mission in Afghanistan will officially end on August 31, US President Joe Biden announced Thursday during an update on the troop withdrawal process.
Biden stated a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is “not inevitable” because the Afghan military not only outnumbers the Taliban but is much better equipped.
He also said the US intelligence community’s recent warning that Afghanistan’s government is on the verge of collapse is “wrong”.
Biden’s remarks during a press briefing at the White House came after he and Vice President Kamala Harris met with national security leaders for an update on the troop withdrawal process.
He also said: “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build, and it is the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
Biden announced that the US is implementing an evacuation plan to withdraw Afghans who assisted the American military.
Biden said Washington would begin flights this month to relocate Afghan interpreters and other personnel who aided the US military – as well as their families – to third-party countries while they await expedited visa processing to move to the United States.
“There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us,” Biden said.
He noted that the US has already approved 2,500 special immigrant visas for Afghans who assisted the US military but said that “up until now, fewer than half have exercised their right to do that.”
There are an estimated 18,000 Afghans who qualify for the special immigrant visas.
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