U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday. He’s trying to advance a peace deal signed last month with the Taliban. His trip comes despite the coronavirus pandemic—a time when most world leaders are limiting travel.
Within days of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal on February 29, Afghanistan sank into political crisis. President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, both declared themselves president. The two even held dueling inauguration ceremonies.
In addition, Taliban and Afghan officials refused to release prisoners agreed upon in the peace deal. The release was supposed to be a goodwill gesture by both sides to start further talks.
Keeping promises is important in all of life, not just in international politics. The Bible admonishes, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)
Afghanistan’s political turmoil has put on hold the start of peace talks that would include the Taliban. Those discussions are critical for the peace deal. U.S. officials hope a successful treaty will allow the United States to bring its troops home and give Afghans the best chance at peace.
“We are in a crisis,” a U.S. State Department official says. “The fear is that unless this crisis gets resolved and resolved soon, that could affect the peace process.”
Yesterday, Pompeo met separately with Ghani and Abdullah. He also plans to meet with both Afghan leaders together, probably to discuss a possible compromise.
The United States pays billions every year toward the Afghan budget, including the country’s defense forces. The U.S. money gives Pompeo clout.
Already, the United States and NATO have begun to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan. The final pullout of U.S. forces doesn’t depend on positive talks. Instead, it depends on promises made by the Taliban. The group says it won’t allow space in Afghanistan for other terror groups—such as the Islamic State group. U.S. armed forces probably won’t leave without such a promise.
The U.S. State Department has warned American citizens against all international travel because of the new coronavirus. Pompeo’s surprise visit highlights its importance.
Pompeo’s last overseas trip in late February was to Qatar—for the signing of the very U.S.-Taliban peace deal he is now trying to salvage.
(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, on Monday, March 23, 2020. Afghan Presidential Palace via AP)