Millennium Post

Pompeo declines to sign risky peace deal with Taliban: Report

The report says, the Taliban asked Pompeo to sign a deal with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which will grant recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity

Washington DC: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to sign the peace deal that his special representative has inked with the Taliban, mainly because it does not guarantee the continued presence of US forces in the country to defeat al-Qaeda or the existence of the democratically elected government, a media report said Wednesday.

Pompeo is "declining to put his name to the deal" that has been hammered out by Special US Representative on Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad after nine round of talks with the representatives of the Taliban in Doha, the Time magazine reported on Wednesday.

"It doesn't guarantee the continued presence of US counterterrorism forces to battle al-Qaeda, the survival of the pro-US government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan," reported Time magazine, which based its report on unnamed senior Afghan, European Union and Trump Administration officials.

"No one speaks with certainty. None, said an Afghan official taking part in briefings on the deal with Khalilzad.

It is all based on hope. There is no trust. There is no history of trust. There is no evidence of honesty and sincerity from the Taliban, and intercepted communications show that they think they have fooled the US while the US believes that should the Taliban cheat, they will pay a hefty price.

According to Time magazine, the Taliban has asked for Pompeo to sign an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the government founded by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996.

Having the Secretary of State sign such a document would amount to de facto recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity, and he declined to do so, the report said, quoting the Afghan officials. Pompeo's office declined to comment.

If the deal is signed, the US has agreed to withdraw some 5,400 US troops, roughly a third of the present force, from five bases within 135 days.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday began briefing allied officials in Europe on an emerging peace deal with the Taliban, but he cautioned that no final deal has been sealed to end the longest war in American history.

"Negotiations in some ways are still ongoing," he told reporters traveling with him from Washington a day after he discussed Afghanistan with President Donald Trump.

Esper declined to talk about his meeting with Trump other than to say it covered a range of issues. He said political decisions are pending.

"I don't want to say anything that gets in front of that or upsets that process," he said.

The U.S. envoy to Afghanistan said earlier this week that a deal had been reached in principle to end the war, amid concerns by the Afghan government that American forces will leave too quickly and without requiring the Taliban to reduce violence.

Trump on Wednesday restated his intention to end the conflict prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We have great warriors there. We have great soldiers, but they are not acting as soldiers, they are acting as policeman, and that's not their job," Trump told reporters at the White House. "So, we would like to get at least a big proportion of them home." The president added that he'd also like to get "a big portion" of the NATO troops out of Afghanistan. "We're talking with the Taliban. We're talking to the government. We'll see what happens," he said.

Esper said he would discuss Afghanistan over dinner Wednesday in Stuttgart with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to give the alliance's civilian leader "a sense of where I think things are" in the push to close a peace deal. NATO countries have had troops in Afghanistan through the nearly 18-year conflict, and they have agreed that they would coordinate any final withdrawal.

Esper planned to meet with his British counterpart in London on Friday and with his French counterpart in Paris on Saturday. Both countries have played important roles in Afghanistan.

In the in-flight interview, Esper cited "sensitive negotiations" as he declined to talk about specifics, such as the timing of an initial American troop pullout or, more broadly, his level of confidence that the Taliban would live up to their end of any peace agreement.

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