US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded Afghan peace talks, which kicked off in Qatar on Saturday, saying the effort was “truly a momentous occasion” for the country.
The talks mark the first time the Taliban and the Afghan government have met face to face to end decades of violence which has engulfed the country. The US and Taliban signed a separate deal in February that promised a phased withdrawal over US troops over the next 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban promised to halt attacks on US soldiers and prevent the re-emergence of Al Qaeda or similar terrorist groups in the territory they control. The Afghan government was notably not part of the US-Taliban accord.
“Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. This is a moment that we must dare to hope. As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war and the lost lives and opportunities, but it is remarkable and a testament to the human spirit that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by all Afghan people and their many friends,” Pompeo said during remarks in Doha, Qatar’s capital.
“We welcome the Taliban commitment not to host international terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, nor to allow them to use Afghan territory to train, recruit or to fundraise,” he added. “We welcome the same commitments by the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that they should never permit their nation to serve as a base for international terrorists to threaten other countries.”
The peace talks are the most serious effort yet to end 19 years of war in Afghanistan precipitated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent overthrow of the Taliban by the United States in 2001.
President Trump has cast himself as an enemy of endless and costly foreign wars and has long sought to wind down US involvement in the region. The US is expected to have less than 5,000 soldiers remaining by the 2020 presidential election in November.
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