KABUL: The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Monday and met squabbling Afghan leaders in a bid to end the current political crisis which has thrown a wrench in the Afghan peace process.
Pompeo returned to US without any power-sharing deal, which was widely expected of him, given the nature of his foray to Kabul.
He met with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his chief rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who have locked horns in a power struggle since Afghanistan’s September elections.
The Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) declared Ghani the winner of the election last month, but Abdullah has since continued to dispute the results. Ghani and Abdullah held dueling inauguration ceremonies earlier this month, when Abdullah vowed to form a parallel government.
Since the signing of the US-Taliban deal last month, the peace process has stalled predominantly over prisoner swap amid political turmoil in Afghanistan.
Ghani and Pompeo spoke about “the Afghan peace process and the next steps, a regional consensus on Afghan peace and on current political and security issues,” Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi tweeted.
Similarly, Abdullah tweeted that the sides discussed “the critical significance of the Afghan peace process as well as the need to resolve the current political crisis rooted in the recent election.”
The peace deal calls for the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners ahead of talks. Ghani initially rejected any prisoner releases, but later offered to release 1,500 ahead of talks and the remaining 3,500 during talks if violence is reduced. The Taliban rejected the offer, saying it would only accept all 5,000.
Pompeo’s trip comes a day after the Afghan government and the Taliban talked about the prison releases, a meeting held over Skype due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Pompeo’s trip was seen similar to that of then-Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014 when Ghani and Abdullah didn’t agree on poll results after running against each other for president. At that time, Kerry negotiated a power-sharing deal that paved for the National Unity Government (NUG), whereby Ghani became president and Abdullah assumed the specially-created position of chief executive officer.
However, according to the Associated Press, Pompeo returned to US empty-handed as there was no official word regarding a power-sharing deal among the rival leaders.