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

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, stands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, stands with Abdullah Abdullah the main political rival of President Ashraf Ghani at the Sepidar Palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Sepidar palace via AP)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Afghanistan's National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, arrives at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center right, and Abdullah Abdullah the main political rival of President Ashraf Ghani, center left, walk at the Sepidar palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Sepidar palace via AP)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)

  • FILE - In this June 25, 2019, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy Kabul during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. On Monday, March 23, 2020, Pompeo arrived in Kabul on an urgent visit to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban. Pompeo's trip to the Afghan capital comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool) Jacquelyn Martin

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center left, meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center right, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center right, and Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, center left, review an honor guard, during an arrival ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets with Abdullah Abdullah the main political rival of President Ashraf Ghani at the Sepidar Palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 23, 2020. Pompeo was in Kabul on an urgent visit Monday to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, a trip that comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (Sepidar Palace via AP)

Published: 3/23/2020 5:29:53 PM

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.

Since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed, the peace process has stalled amid political turmoil in Afghanistan, with the country’s leaders deadlocked over who was elected president in last September’s presidential polls.

President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, have both declared themselves the country’s president in dueling inauguration ceremonies earlier this month.

Pompeo met separately with Ghani and then Abdullah 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 on Feb. 29, 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 for their part to free 1,000 Afghan officials and soldiers they hold captive. The exchange was meant to be a good-will gesture by both sides to start the negotiations.




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