cloudy.png
Wednesday April 8th, 2020 11:24AM

Pompeo leaves Kabul, no word on political power-sharing deal

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left Afghanistan on Monday without saying whether he was able to broker an agreement between the country's squabbling political leaders.

Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban. He'd traveled thousands of miles despite a near-global travel shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel.

But as his plane took off from Kabul, there was still no announcement on whether he'd worked out a solution to Afghanistan’s political impasse between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah. There were reports in the Afghan capital that Pompeo had given Ghani and Abdullah until Tuesday to come up with a compromise, but there was no indication either side had offered to step aside.

From Kabul, Pompeo flew to Doha, Qatar, where he witnessed the signing of the U.S.-Taliban deal on Feb. 29 and where he was to meet with Taliban officials, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar. Baradar signed the agreement on behalf of the group. The State Department said Pompeo's aim was "to press the Taliban to continue to comply with the agreement signed last month.”

Since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed, the peace process has stalled amid political turmoil in Afghanistan, as Ghani and Abdullah remained deadlocked over who was elected president in last September's presidential polls. They both declared themselves president in dueling inauguration ceremonies earlier this month.

Pompeo had met separately with Ghani and then Abdullah on Monday before meeting together with both Afghan leaders. His schedule also had Ghani and Abdullah coming together for a one-on-one meeting, presumably to discuss a possible compromise.

The United States pays billions every year toward the Afghan budget, including the country's defense forces. Afghanistan barely raises a quarter of the revenue it needs to run the country, giving Pompeo considerable financial leverage to force the two squabbling leaders to overcome the impasse.

The political turmoil has put on hold the start of intra-Afghan peace talks that would include the Taliban. Those talks are seen as a critical next step in the peace deal, negotiated to allow the United States to bring home its troops and give Afghans the best chance at peace.

“We are in a crisis," a State Department official told reporters accompanying Pompeo. “The fear is that unless this crisis gets resolved and resolved soon, that could affect the peace process, which was an opportunity for this country that (has) stood in this 40-years-long war. And our agreement with the Talibs could be put at risk."

The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. concerns.

The U.S. and NATO have already begun to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan. The final pullout of U.S. forces is not dependent on the success of intra-Afghan negotiations but rather on promises made by the Taliban to deny space in Afghanistan to other terror groups, such as the insurgents' rival Islamic State group.

But within days of the U.S. and the Taliban signing the peace deal in Qatar, Afghanistan sunk into a political crisis with Ghani and Abdullah squaring off over election results and Ghani refusing to fulfill his part of a promise made in the U.S.-Taliban deal to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The insurgents were to free 1,000 Afghan officials and soldiers they hold captive. The exchange was meant to be a goodwill gesture by both sides to start the negotiations.

The urgency of Pompeo’s surprise visit was highlighted by the fact that the State Department has warned American citizens against all international travel, citing the spread of the coronavirus. Pompeo’s last overseas trip in late February was to Doha for the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal he is now trying to salvage.

As the virus pandemic has worsened, causing many nations to close their borders and airports and cancel international flights, Pompeo and the State Department have come under increasing criticism for not doing enough to help Americans stranded overseas get home.

Many of the critics took Pompeo to task for apparently not working while thousands of Americans are struggling to find transportation home from various countries.

Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been trying to jump-start talks between Afghans on both sides of the conflict — the next critical step in the U.S.-Taliban deal — tweeted early Monday that the two sides are talking about the prisoner exchange.

Surprisingly, Khalilzad did not attend Pompeo's meetings with Ghani or Abdullah, but is instead in the Afghan capital. Ghani has been critical of Khalilzad's talks with the Taliban, saying they were too secretive and the Afghan government was kept out of the loop until all the details had been worked out.

The intra-Afghan negotiations were never going to be easy, but since Washington signed the peace deal with the Taliban, it has struggled to get the Afghan government to at least offer a unified position.

Pompeo’s visit is also extraordinary for the fact that the U.S., like the United Nations, had earlier said it would not be drawn into mediating feuding Afghan politicians as it did in 2014 presidential polls. While the Afghan election commission this time gave the win to Ghani, Abdullah and the election complaints commission charged widespread irregularities to challenge Ghani’s win.

In Afghanistan's presidential election in 2014, also marred by widespread fraud and deeply disputed results, Ghani and Abdullah emerged as leading contenders. Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mediated between the two and eventually cobbled together a Unity Government, with Ghani as president and Abdullah holding the newly created but equal in status post of the country's chief executive.

However, the Ghani-Abdullah partnership was a difficult one and for much of its five years triggered a parliamentary paralysis leading up to the September balloting.

____

Gannon reported from Islamabad. AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP World News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Pompeo leaves Kabul, no word on political power-sharing deal
The U.S. secretary of state has left Afghanistan without saying whether he was able to broker an agreement between the country's squabbling political leaders
11:38AM ( 5 minutes ago )
The Latest: Biden urges Trump to use full federal authority
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Monday urged President Donald Trump to use the full force of federal authority in the fight against the coronavirus
11:33AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Fed to buy unlimited government debt, lend to businesses
In its boldest effort to protect the U.S. economy from the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve says it will buy as much government debt as it deems necessary and will also begin lending to small and large businesses and local governments to help them weather the crisis
11:25AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Fallout of '08 bailout looms over Washington negotiations
More than a decade after Washington bailed out big banks, Congress and the White House are engaged in a new debate over emergency spending
9:36AM ( 2 hours ago )
Pompeo in Kabul in effort to revive flagging peace process
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Kabul on an urgent visit to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban
9:00AM ( 2 hours ago )
2020 Watch: Can President Donald Trump reclaim control?
The coronavirus has grounded the 2020 presidential race — but not ended it
5:23AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: New Zealand could have first local outbreak
Health authorities in New Zealand say there might be a local outbreak of coronavirus
8:34PM ( 2 days ago )
Bloomberg to give $18M to DNC; state parties get offices
Mike Bloomberg is transferring $18 million from his presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee in what is the largest such transfer ever
11:01AM ( 3 days ago )
10 Things to Know for Today
Get ready for Friday, March 20, with a few things to know about the day’s news from The Associated Press
6:08AM ( 3 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
The Latest: Merkel awaits coronavirus results in quarantine
German chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says the chancellor is doing well and awaiting the results of a coronavirus test in quarantine
10:18AM ( 1 hour ago )
War-torn Syria braces for lockdown after first virus case
Syrians are rushing to stock up on food and fuel amid fears that authorities will resort to even stricter measures after reporting the first coronavirus infection in the country
10:17AM ( 1 hour ago )
Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
More than 1.5 billion people, a fifth of the world's population, are being asked or ordered to stay home as new virus infections soar
10:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
The Latest: Biden urges Trump to use full federal authority
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Monday urged President Donald Trump to use the full force of federal authority in the fight against the coronavirus
11:33AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Fed to buy unlimited government debt, lend to businesses
In its boldest effort to protect the U.S. economy from the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve says it will buy as much government debt as it deems necessary and will also begin lending to small and large businesses and local governments to help them weather the crisis
11:25AM ( 18 minutes ago )
At a glance: Nearly $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package
Congress and the White House are negotiating a nearly $2 trillion rescue package of healthcare and economic aid amid the coronavirus outbreak and national shutdown
11:25AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Trump appears to waffle on shutdown as Congress pursues aid
Administration officials and congressional leaders are struggling to complete a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package as the coronavirus crisis deepens
11:12AM ( 32 minutes ago )
South Africa's virus cases jump to 402, most in Africa
South Africa's coronavirus cases jumped to 402 Monday, up 128 from the day before, continuing worrying exponential growth and making it the country with the most cases in Africa
11:05AM ( 38 minutes ago )