Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is prepared to remove US forces from Afghanistan, but has not agreed on a timeline.
“We’ve made clear to the Taliban that we’re prepared to remove our forces. I want to be clear, we’ve not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” Pompeo said Tuesday during an unannounced stop in Afghanistan. The presence of troops in Afghanistan is “conditions-based,” the top US diplomat said.
Pompeo made the remarks to traveling press in Kabul on Tuesday before traveling on to New Delhi, India.
Pompeo said “real progress” has been made in the Afghan peace talks and that the parties were close to settling on a draft text.
“Regarding terrorism, we’ve made real progress and are nearly ready to conclude a draft text outlining the Taliban’s commitments to join fellow Afghans in ensuring Afghan soil never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists,” Pompeo said.
The Taliban played a central supporting role in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Before the attacks, the Taliban government gave al-Qaeda refuge and afterward its leader, Mullah Omar, refused to turn Osama bin Laden over to international authorities.
Pompeo’s visit took place just before the Trump administration is set to begin a new round of US talks with the Taliban, set to start June 29 in Qatar, according to a tweet by the US Special Representative for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
The talks, which Khalilzad has said haven’t made “sufficient” progress, have not included the Afghan government, which the Taliban has refused to negotiate with.
The conflict, known as America’s longest war, has spanned over 17 years, cost more than 2,400 American lives, billions of US dollars and has stretched into its third US administration. President Donald Trump campaigned on ending US involvement in Afghanistan and other international conflicts.
More than 45,000 Afghan security personnel have “paid the ultimate sacrifice” since 2014, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in January at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Pompeo met with Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah during his visit. He was accompanied during his visit by US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, Khalilzad, and Gen. Austin Scott Miller, commander of Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission to train, assist and advise the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
While in Afghanistan, the secretary of state also alluded to Iran, which President Donald Trump threatened to “obliterate” Tuesday and which shares a border with Afghanistan.
“I can’t share a lot with you about Iran’s involvement here in Afghanistan,” Pompeo said during a press conference. “I would say this: It is not in Iran’s best interest to undermine this peace process.”
“It is in every regional player’s best interest that this peace process move forward after 18 years,” Pompeo said.