Mike Pompeo reports 'notable progress' in US-Taleban talks, says Afghan president

Former militants surrender their weapons during a reconciliation ceremony in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Feb 8, 2020.
Former militants surrender their weapons during a reconciliation ceremony in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Feb 8, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday (Feb 11) he was told by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that "notable progress" had been made in talks between the United States and the Taleban on an agreement for a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a post on Twitter, Ghani that Pompeo had informed him in a telephone call that the Taleban had made a proposal "with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence."

Ghani's tweet indicated a possible breakthrough in talks between US and Taleban negotiators, who have been deadlocked in part over a US demand that the insurgents agree to significantly reduce violence as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.

US President Donald Trump has made a withdrawal of the 13,000 US service members in Afghanistan a major foreign policy objective and a pullout accord with the Taleban could boost his re-election prospects this November.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taleban officials were not immediately available for comment.

In his tweet, Ghani wrote that Pompeo had told him "of the notable progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taleban."

"The Secretary informed me about the Taleban's proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence," he continued, adding, "This is a welcoming development."

Ghani appeared to take credit for the development, writing that "our principal position on peace thus far has begun to yield fruitful results."

The Afghan president has called on the Taleban to agree to a nationwide ceasefire, a demand also made by Trump in September when he scuttled months of negotiations with the insurgents led by Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, a US special envoy.

The Taleban, however, have steadfastly rejected the demand.

In the talks that resumed in Doha, the Qatari capital, in December, US negotiators have pressed the insurgents to agree to a significant reduction in violence.