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Mike Pompeo visits Kabul to try to break political deadlock

KABUL – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a one-day visit to the Afghan capital Monday to help break a poisonous political deadlock that has further riven the country just as the Taliban are increasing attacks and a rise in coronavirus cases threatens an already-floundering peace process.

Afghanistan has been enmeshed in a political crisis since elections last year left the country in disarray due to numerous fraud claims that ultimately saw two men claiming the presidency and holding separate inaugurations.

Pompeo held separate and joint meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani—the election’s official winner—along with his archrival Abdullah Abdullah, who also claims the presidency.

“We have tried… for the last several weeks to try to find the formula and encourage them to come to an agreement,” a senior state department official said, according to a pool report.

Pompeo has come “to help push, to encourage and to point out what our expectations are and what that assessment is if they don’t do the right thing”.

The top US diplomat was welcomed by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad—the lead US negotiator in recent talks with the Taliban—after arriving at Kabul airport. He flew out again Monday evening.

The visit came just a day after the Afghan government and Taliban held their first discussion on prisoner exchanges—a key step in a broader push for peace following a withdrawal deal signed between Washington and the militants.

The Taliban rejected the offer.

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