Afghanistan Media Hints at ‘Breakthrough’ After Pompeo-Taliban Meeting

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Afghan media on Sunday reported a “breakthrough” in the government’s peace talks with the Taliban following U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with negotiators from both sides on November 21 in Doha, Qatar.

“A breakthrough is reported from Doha as the two negotiating teams have agreed to include the US-Taliban deal, UN endorsements for Afghan peace process, commitments of the negotiating teams and will of the Afghan people as the base for upcoming negotiations [sic],” Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported on November 22.

Tolo cited unnamed sources who said “Afghan chief negotiator Mohammad Massoom Stanikzai and presidential peace advisor Salam Rahimi … [have been] on a secret trip to Kabul in the past three days, seeking [Afghan] President Ghani’s approval for the agreed formulation.”

Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban have so far not commented on the reported “breakthrough” in the U.S.-brokered peace talks. The negotiations have been ongoing in Doha since September 12 with little progress made until now. The Taliban has continued to carry out violent and deadly attacks on Afghan security forces despite its participation in the peace process. The terror group refuses to acknowledge the Afghan government’s legitimacy in ruling the country.

Afghan government negotiators said they “insisted on an end to violence and called for preserving Afghanistan’s achievements” in their meeting with Pompeo on Saturday, according to Tolo.

“Concerns of members of the peace delegation about the increase in violence and the US support to the Afghan peace negotiations, which is a common goal, were discussed,” Habiba Sarabi, an Afghan government peace negotiator, told the news site.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, was also present at Saturday’s meeting with Pompeo, according to the report. During the meeting, the Taliban reportedly “insisted on the implementation of the Doha agreement, the removal of names of Taliban members from UN blacklist, the release of their prisoners, and the peace negotiations [sic].”

“The release of remaining prisoners of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and ending the blacklists and also issues around intra-Afghan negotiations were discussed,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem confirmed in a statement.

The U.S. State Department released a statement on Saturday addressing Pompeo’s meeting with the Taliban, saying he “called for a significant reduction in violence and encouraged expedited discussions on a political roadmap and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

Pompeo also “reiterated that the people of Afghanistan expect and deserve to live in peace and security after 40 years of war and bloodshed.”