After meeting with Afghan government officials and Taliban leaders in Doha on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the process is moving along at a pace for a full withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan by April or May next year.
Speaking to Breitbart News on Sunday, while flying back to the United States, Pompeo said the full troops withdrawal was conditions-based and that there were three key conditions that needed to be met by the Afghan government and the Taliban in order for this to happen.
“One, there is an obligation they [Taliban] have with respect to foreign terrorist groups — primarily al-Qaeda, but all four terrorist groups — they are not permitted, and the language is very clear that they are not permitted and that they have to break with them.
“Second, they [Afghanistan and Taliban] have to engage in these conversations in a way that is substantive and not just physically sit in the room, but they need to have serious conversations and begin to work their way through it.
“Then, third, they have a responsibility as part of that to ensure that outside actors don’t act as spoilers for this, and there are many hands who would like to see this undone and would like to see America mired in Afghanistan for another 20 years. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban have a responsibility to prevent that,” he told Breitbart.
“Those are the conditions, we’ll measure them. There’s a set of CT metrics that’s pretty clearly laid out. We’ll measure them and the president will make a decision if there’s sufficient compliance to get us to zero. I think we’re on a pathway to achieve that.”
This is in line with the US’s deal with the Taliban signed in Doha in February that stipulates a full drawdown of troops by next spring if conditions are met.
One key condition is that the Taliban break ties with al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups. Another condition is that the Taliban agrees not to harbor terrorist groups, as they were doing prior to the US invasion following the 9/11 attacks.
Pompeo also stated that the US “finally have the Afghans prepared to sit down and have a serious conversation about taking their country forward without all the violence.”
He told Breitbart that President Donald Trump had laid out two objectives. One was to reduce the American footprint in Afghanistan and get its forces home and secondly, to make sure America is protected.
“I think we’re, today, on our way to putting America in a place where we can do both of those things,” he said.
On the start of peace talks Saturday, between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he said the “meetings went as could be expected at the first gathering. They were getting their teams together, getting to know each other, and they began to set out the framework of what negotiations will look like.”
He said there are “some very, very difficult issues and there will be bumps in the road, but back in February, we were hoping that today would come back in March or April. It’s been six months, but I’m happy with the progress that was made today. I think they’ll meet again tomorrow in Doha and then they’ll go back and start on the framework of the negotiations not long after that.”
Sticking Points Discussed
Asked what challenges could be expected ahead of a peace agreement, Pompeo said that the “central challenge” is how power will be shared among the various parties in the country.
“In the end, the central challenge is what will the Afghan government look like,” Pompeo said.
“What will be the power-sharing arrangement? This is a challenge anytime you have throughout history insurgencies and other times when nations have civil strife. We took al-Qaeda out, and the Taliban still have weapons and the capacity to inflict damage.
“We made clear to them when I met with them today [Saturday] — the Taliban — that they have an obligation to reduce violence immediately and significantly so these negotiations can proceed. So there will be issues of power-sharing and how the government is established at the center of the conversation.”
Asked about his meeting with Taliban co-founder and lead negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Pompeo told Breitbart News that he is “convinced” there is a “solution” to the differences between the two sides.
“It’s the third time, maybe the fourth time, that I’ve spoken to him — the second time I’ve met with him in person. They have a very clear set of objectives, of things that they are laying down that they want and they need,” Pompeo said.
“When I understand what the Afghan government wants and needs, and what the people of Afghanistan outside of the Taliban and Taliban-controlled territories want, I’m convinced there is a solution to this. I hope that that’s the case.”
Elon Musk begins Twitter poll on reinstating Trump’s account
Twitter owner Elon Musk launched a poll Friday on the social media platform asking if former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform.
“Reinstate former President Trump,” Musk wrote in a post which garnered more than 4.4 million impressions at the time of publication, Anadolu Agency reported.
More than 55% of users voted “yes,” while 44% said “no.”
Hours earlier, the American billionaire implied that he was mulling whether to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account.
“Trump decision has not yet been made,” tweeted Musk, as he announced three high-profile reinstatements of accounts that were banned by the social media giant.
“Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated,” said Musk.
Trump had about 88.8 million followers when Twitter permanently suspended the former US president’s account in January 2021, citing his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and the potential for more violence.
Musk had forecast a Trump return in May when he called the expulsion “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”
IEA says it has eradicated war and corruption in Afghanistan
The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, said at a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war and administrative corruption in the country and pave the ground for progress and development.
He said that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has created an aid fund for Afghanistan and they will help Afghanistan in health, education, and other fields in addition to humanitarian aid.
An OIC official meanwhile said it will stand by Afghanistan and we will continue its cooperation with Afghanistan in the areas of prosperity, stability, and development.
The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, meanwhile welcomed the delegation of the OIC, and said, “You will see the real facts and the efforts of the Islamic Emirate in various sectors.”
He said that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war, insecurity, murder, destruction, and corruption in the country.
In conclusion, the IEA will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan soil against other countries, he said.
Explosion in busy Istanbul street leaves at least 4 dead
An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue on Sunday afternoon has left at least four people dead and a number of people injured, a senior official told Associated Press.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweeted that the explosion occurred at about 4:20 p.m. Istanbul time and that there were deaths and injuries, but he did not say how many. The cause of the explosion was not clear.
Al Jazeera also reported at least four people were killed and 38 others injured.
However, according to the Associated Press, Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary media ban on reporting of the explosion, which means broadcasters cannot show videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath.
The Supreme Board of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks, accidents and some political issues.
Footage on social media showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.
Broadcaster CNN Turk meanwhile reported 11 people were injured.
The avenue is a crowded thoroughfare popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.
Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIS (Daesh) and outlawed Kurdish groups.
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