The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on March 23 reportedly met the Taliban leaders in Qatar in a bid to end the political deadlock. According to international media reports, Pompeo flew to Qatar after a surprise visit to Kabul. The recent meeting marked the highest-level talks ever between the two sides as he sought to break an impasse over Afghanistan through shuttle diplomacy.
While speaking to an international media outlet, State Department Morgan Ortagus said that Pompeo went into a closed-door meeting with three Taliban leaders including Mullah Baradar, who is an Afghan insurgents’ formerly imprisoned top negotiator. Ortagus said that the US will press the Taliban to comply with the agreement signed last month. He further added that if the Taliban deliver on commitments on terrorism and other things that they are committed to, then the US is also very much committed to reducing the force and meeting the obligations.
According to reports, Pompeo also held a separate and joint meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his archival Abdullah Abdullah. The State Department official reportedly said that Pompeo met with the leaders ‘to help push, to encourage and to point out’ what US expectations are and what assessment is if they don’t do the ‘right thing’.
Pompeo’s visit to Qatar came right after the Afghan government’s and Taliban’s fist discussion on prisoner exchange. The United States special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, took to Twitter and said that the prisoner-swap was ‘urgent’ as the coronavirus pandemic was complicating the diplomatic contacts. In a tweet thread, he further added that all sides conveyed their ‘strong commitment’ and also agreed to ‘follow-on technical meeting in the next two days’.
The US signed a landmark deal with the Taliban on February 29 which laid out the timetable for America's full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within the period of 14 months marking the US' exit from its longest war. According to international reports, the accord is expected to lead the way for a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government, and if it turns out successful, it would end an 18-year-long conflict.
The deal was signed in a conference room of luxury Doha hotel, with Taliban fighter-turned-dealmaker, Mullah Baradar alongside Washington's chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Reportedly, as Baradar and Khalilzad finally inked the accord, the people in the room shouted, 'Allahu Akbar'. Before that Pompeo had also urged the insurgents to 'keep your promises to cut ties with Al-Qaeda'.