US demands more from Afghan Taliban on ceasefire before deal
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday demanded “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban that they can and will reduce violence before signing a deal that would lead to Afghanistan peace talks and a withdrawal of American troops from the country.
Speaking at a news conference in neighbouring Uzbekistan, Pompeo said a deal is close but that they have been close before and failed because the Taliban were unable to demonstrate seriousness. He said more work remains to be done so that peace talks can get started.
“We’re working on a peace and reconciliation plan, putting the commas in the right place, getting the sentences right,” he said. “We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence.”
“So, what we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat, so the inter-Afghan talks … will have a less violent context,” he said. “We’re hopeful we can achieve that but we’re not there yet, and work certainly remains.”
Pompeo’s comments came just two days after US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul and told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani there has been “no notable progress” in talks with the Taliban. However, Khalilzad said he was hopeful of reaching an understanding with them on a reduction of hostilities, without offering any time frame.
Khalilzad had been in Pakistan last week to rally support for getting an agreement with the Taliban to reduce their attacks, as a first step towards a peace agreement to end 18 years of war in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Earlier, the Taliban said they offered Khalilzad a 10-day ceasefire window in which to sign a peace agreement that would be followed by intra-Afghan negotiations. – AP