Pompeo pushes peace talks on unannounced trip to Afghanistan
KABUL, July 9, 2018 (News Wires) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday there was “now hope” for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, during an unannounced visit to Kabul.
Pompeo’s first visit to Afghanistan since he was sworn in as America’s top diplomat in April came amid renewed optimism for peace in the war-weary country following last month’s unprecedented ceasefire by the Taliban and the government.
“An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is now hope,” Pompeo told a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Monday.
“Many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s very deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy,” he said, referring to Trump’s much-vaunted South Asia policy announced last August.
But he added: “Make no mistake, there’s still a great deal of work to do.”
Pompeo’s visit to the Afghan capital follows a ceasefire during Eid, when the Islamic holiday was marked by spontaneous street celebrations involving Afghan security forces and Taliban militants.
Fighters on both sides expressed a deep fatigue with the grinding conflict, raising hopes that an end to hostilities was possible after 17 years of war that began with the US-led invasion in 2001 that ousted the Taliban from power.
But the insurgents refused the government’s request to extend their three-day ceasefire, launching attacks that have seen scores killed or injured.
US-backed Ghani, who is under international pressure to ensure credible parliamentary elections are held in October ahead of next year’s presidential vote, has been leading the push for peace talks.
Ghani thanked Pompeo for US support, hailing Trump’s strategy as a “game changer” in the conflict.