The US Secretary of State made an unscheduled visit to Afghanistan to kickstart talks between the government and the Taliban. A feud between the Afghan president and his main rival is jeopardizing the deal.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday as part of an urgent attempt to kickstart the peace process in Afghanistan.
Pompeo was set to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghaniand his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, separately before meeting together with both. This last-minute trip comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, a time when world leaders and diplomats are minimizing official travel.
Ghani and Abdullah both claimed to have won last year's presidential election. While the Afghan election committee gave the win to Ghani, Abdullah and the election complaints commission charged widespread irregularities to challenge Ghani's victory. Each held his own inauguration ceremony earlier this month.
The US, like the United Nations, had previously said it would not be drawn into feuds between Afghan politicians.
Read more: US-Taliban agreement is a male-dominated affair
Landmark agreement in the balance
Pompeo's visit comes a day after the Afghan government held its first discussion with the Taliban, a militarized political movement in Afghanistan, on arranging prisoner exchanges. The negotiations are a part of a historic agreement that the US and the Taliban agreed to last month that would end America's longest war.
The US-Taliban deal called for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban fighters and up to 1,000 members of the Afghan government forces. The exchange was meant to be a good-will gesture by both sides to start peace negotiations, but Afghan President Ghani has thus far refused to fulfill his part of the promise.
Zalmy Khalilzad, a US envoy in Afghanistan, tweeted on Sunday that the prisoner exchange "is an important step in the peace process" and it was "urgent" to conclude the plans quickly.
The US, who invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, has struggled to get the Afghan government to take a unified position.
However, their final withdrawal of troops is not dependent on intra-Afghan negotiations, but rather on promises made to deny space in Afghanistan to other terror organizations, such as the so-called Islamic State.
dv/rg (AFP, AP)
DW sends out a daily selection of hard news and quality feature journalism. Sign up here.