US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday in Qatar called on the Taliban and the Afghan government to speed up the stalled peace talks, as Donald Trump decided despite persistent violence to go ahead with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
At least eight people were killed and 31 others injured on Saturday by rockets that hit central Kabul. Afghan government officials blamed the Taliban but the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mike Pompeo met the government and the Taliban separately in Doha, the Qatari capital where the inter-Afghan negotiations have been taking place for more than two months.
“He called for a significant reduction in violence and urged an acceleration of discussions on a political roadmap and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”the US State Department said in a statement after talks with the insurgents.
To contact Abdullah, who is leading the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, confirmed to AFP during a visit to Turkey progress in breaking the deadlock.
The first direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in mid-September, but almost immediately failed to fall apart for a disagreement on the simple rules of discussions. After two months without real progress, several sources told AFP on Friday that the two sides appeared to have resolved this key point.
On February 29, Mike Pompeo attended in Doha the signing of a historic agreement between the United States and the Taliban to end the longest American military intervention in history.
Mr. Pompeo ends this weekend in the Gulf a tour in seven countries of Europe and the Middle East while Donald Trump, while refusing to recognize the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the American presidential election, accelerates his priorities end of term.
The Pentagon has just announced the withdrawal of some 2,000 additional troops from Afghanistan by January 15: five days before President-elect Biden takes office, only 2,500 will remain.
The timetable established at the end of February between Washington and the Taliban calls for a complete departure of troops in mid-2021, but in exchange for guarantees of security, a reduction in violence and progress in the peace talks – conditions that many observers do not. deem not fulfilled at this stage.
Fears for withdrawal
Violence has increased across the country, with rebels stepping up daily attacks against Afghan security forces.
Washington’s European allies, but also some republican tenors, have expressed their concern about this withdrawal, which many consider premature.
He has also been criticized by residents of Kabul, who fear it will encourage the Taliban to start a new wave of fighting, when civilians have long been the main victims of the conflict.
The authorities in Kabul fear that the insurgents will harden their positions in the negotiations, where key issues such as women’s rights are at stake.
Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to end “endless wars” of the United States, especially in Afghanistan where the American army intervened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Joe Biden, on rare common ground with Mr. Trump, also wants to end the conflict, although the terms of the withdrawal may vary between the two men.
Sign of possible continuity, several voices call on the Democrat to keep the American negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad once at the White House.
In Doha, the head of American diplomacy also met the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, with whom he spoke of the need for union within the Gulf countries to counter Iran, a bête noire of Washington in the region.
He will end his tour in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where he is due to meet Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman, a close ally of Donald Trump who could be less blessed by the future Biden administration.