Pompeo arrives in Kabul to discuss peace process, election dispute

Kabul, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- The Secretary of State of the United States arrived Monday in the Afghan capital to discuss matters related to the peace process with the Taliban, as well as disputes over the results of the presidential elections held last year, according to official sources.

Mike Pompeo’s unannounced visit to Kabul comes amid an unstable security situation in the country and an electoral feud which has threatened to jeopardize the roadmap for peace signed between the US and the Taliban last month.

Pompeo met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and discussed issues related to the “peace process, next steps in this (peace) process, regional consensus for the peace in Afghanistan, as well as current security and political situation in the country,” Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi tweeted.

Pompeo was also scheduled to meet with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on issues related to “election disputes and the peace process,” Abdullah’s spokesperson Omaid Maisam told EFE.

Earlier this month, Ghani and his rival Abdullah both declared themselves the president of Afghanistan in dramatic parallel oath ceremonies in Kabul, throwing the country into a major political crisis.

The unending political duel has cast a shadow over the government’s planned peace talks with the Taliban, following an agreement signed between the US and the insurgent group on Feb. 29 in Doha, Qatar.

Abdullah has been insisting that Ghani was declared the winner because of fraud and has refused to accept the election commission’s verdict.

Moreover, a recent escalation in violence in the country has made matters worse regarding the implementation of the peace agreement.

On Friday, at least 20 members of the Afghan security forces were killed in an attack on a security checkpoint in southeastern Zabul province attributed to the insurgents who allegedly carried it out with the help of rogue policemen affiliated to them.

The Afghan authorities have now vowed to ensure a more active role for their troops, which had been in a defensive mode owing to a drop in violent incidents in the run up to the signing of the historic peace agreement.

After signing the deal with Washington – which was preceded by a seven-day reduction in violence – the Taliban has stopped its attacks on NATO troops but gradually increased armed strikes on the Afghan forces, despite several warnings from the government.

The agreement laid out a roadmap for the pull-out of US troops from the war-ravaged country, starting with the withdrawal of 8,600 soldiers within 135 days from the date of signing of the deal.

Currently, some 14,000 US troops remain deployed in the country.

The insurgents and the government remain deadlocked over an agreement regarding swapping of prisoners, which was a part of the US-Taliban accord and considered crucial for the commencement of the intra-Afghan talks that could usher in peace after nearly two decades of conflict.

This deadlock has delayed the negotiations, which otherwise were scheduled to kick off by Mar. 10 as per the agreement with the US. EFE-EPA


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