Pompeo’s Kabul visit

Betrays US’s intent for early withdrawal

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. That the visit came in the middle of a health crisis points to the urgency the US feels towards going ahead with the peace deal signed last month between the Taliban and the US. One reason for the visit was to effect a rapprochement between the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his arch rival Abdullah Abdullah who held his separate inauguration the same day the former did.

Additionally, there was no headway in the intra Afghan dialogue as president Ghani had refused to release 5, 000 prisoners which was an important plank of the peace deal. President Ghani was adamant on allowing a staggered release for Afghan prisoners. He wanted to link it with progress in the talks.  President Ghani also very cleverly used this as an opportunity to get all the international players to lend support to his inauguration and that exactly was the case as all important players concerned with the peace process in Afghanistan sent their representatives to Ghani’s inauguration. Be that as it may, without a consensus among the two leaders – Ghani, and Abdullah who has secured a sizable number of votes in the presidential elections, intra afghan dialogue has very slim chances of succeeding.

The Afghan Taliban who already did not consider the Afghan government as legitimate one and did not want to engage with them at any level, if the two top leaders do not sit together, shall lend credence to Taliban claim of the incumbent government not being a representative one.

Now there are reports that the two sides have held a videoconference. Taliban have indicated that there was some agreement on the release of prisoners during the discussion which is a welcome development. As history is witness, the last time the US made a hasty withdrawal after Soviet Union disintegration, all the warring forces in war torn country had gotten to each other’s throats and no stable government was possible until Taliban took over in 1996. While the US may be in hurry to leave the Afghan soil, it should ensure that all the major stakeholders are able to work out their differences and the Afghan government has enough resources and its law enforcement apparatus has developed enough spine to withstand the pressures of law enforcement of a country that has been under 40 years of war.