The US announced on Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flying to Doha to attend the opening ceremony of the Afghanistan peace negotiations, due to begin on Saturday.
“The start of these negotiations follows intense diplomatic efforts,
including the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan joint declaration, which were agreed to in February,” the State Department said.
We will be down to 4,000 soldiers in Afghanistan very soon and down to 2,000 in Iraq very soon
US President Donald Trump announced the trip for the talks between the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban insurgents, tying it to plans to withdraw 4,000 American troops from the country.
“No deaths, no problems since early February,” Mr Trump said. "We are getting along very, very well with the Taliban."
February was the date of the US deal with the Taliban.
But on Wednesday,
a bombing in the Afghan capital hit the convoy of the country’s first vice president, killing 10 people and wounding at least 31.
The vice president, Amrullah Saleh, survived the attack unharmed.
“We will be down to 4,000 soldiers in Afghanistan very soon and down to 2,000 in Iraq very soon,” Mr Trump said on Thursday.
The US has now 8,500 troops in the country, and Mr Trump is hoping that a peace agreement between different factions there would allow him to pull the soldiers out and end America's longest war.
The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the negotiations, left for Doha last week to promote reconciliation talks.
But Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, said Mr Pompeo’s trip was a sign of US eagerness to withdraw – and a boost for the Taliban.
The timing is also relevant to the US election, said Mr Haqqani, who is also a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
"From Trump’s point of view, it would be the fulfilment of a promise from the last election campaign ahead of next month’s election,” he said.
Mr Haqqani told
The National that the Taliban were the winners with US concessions including the withdrawal.
“The US has made all the concessions and the Taliban feel victorious," he said.
"It is difficult to imagine how virtually surrendering to the Taliban will bring peace to Afghanistan."
Sergeant Jay Kenney, 26, with the 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Destiny, assists wounded Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers off the Blackhawk UH-60A helicopter after they were rescued in an air mission in Kandahar on December 12, 2010 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Getty Images
An Afghan Northern Alliance fighter mans the front line against the Taliban on October 2, 2001 near Jabul os Sarache, 30 miles north of Kabul. Getty Images
Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive of Afghanistan travelling via helicopter for the final campaign rally in Bamiyan, Afghanistan on September 25, 2019. Afghans will head to the polls on Saturday, September 28th. Getty Images
Mustafa Tamanna, 10, son of Afghan reporter Zabihullah Tamanna, weeps during the funeral ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan on June 7, 2016. Tamanna was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by the Taliban. Getty Images
Northern Alliance soldiers come back from the front line after a battle near Charatoy town in the north of Afghanistan on October 10, 2001. REUTERS
A Northern Alliance fighter throwing rocks as part of a popular national game yards away from a multiple Grad missile launcher in October 12, 2001 in the Salang Gorge in Northern Afghanistan. Getty Images
A French soldier from the 7th Mountain Regiment, part of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) stands on a boulder overlooking Kabul during a patrol August 3, 2002 in Afghanistan. The ISAF has been patrolling Kabul since January 2002, working with the government and a new police force to prevent the violence and lawlessness that threatened to engulf the city after a U.S.-led coalition forced the Taliban from power. Getty Images
US Marine Sgt. Jerry Brown (L) of Jacksonville, North Carolina watches over a weapons cache found during a patrol near the American military compound at Kandahar Airport in January 16, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Marines recovered mortars, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery rounds discovered in various caches near the base while on the patrol. Getty Images)
Members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry patrol through poppy fields in the village of Markhanai in May 6, 2002 in the Tora Bora valley region of Afghanistan. Getty Images
The United States and Britain on October 7, 2001 launched a first wave of air strikes against Afghanistan. President George W. Bush said the action heralded a "sustained, comprehensive and relentless" campaign against terrorism. REUTERS
A young Afghan girl eats a piece of bread at the Chaman refugee camp on November 8, 2001 on the Pakistan border with Afghanistan. The UNHCR has estimated that since September 11, 2001 over 135,000 Afghans have crossed the border into Pakistan, adding to the already millions of refugees living in the country. Getty Images
Afghan opposition Northern Alliance soldiers leap over a trench as they return from front line positions after battle near the town of Charatoy in the north of Afghanistan October 10, 2001. REUTERS
An Afghan child peeks out from the doorway of his family's home as a US Army soldier from the 101st Airborne stands guard in the eastern Afghan village of Hesarak on July 16, 2002 during what the Army refers to as a 'sensitive site exploitation' mission or 'SSE'. Getty Images
Fred Perry, a British Royal Engineer soldier, reads the book "Black Hawk Down" inside his tent after a day of work on January 29, 2002 at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) barracks at the Kabul airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Getty Images
Afghan soldiers (L) speak to a local Afghan, while a medic in the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, Charlie Company (R) monitors a soldier who has just survived a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) while driving a vehicle during a mission near Command Outpost Pa'in Kalay, on March 19, 2013 in Kandahar Province, Maiwand District, Afghanistan. Getty Images
Marines on a light armored vehicle prepare for patrol as an AH1W "Super Cobra" helicopter flies by on December 28, 2001 at the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Getty Images
A Norwegian ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)soldier from Recce Squadron 3 patrols on October 4, 2004 in Kabul, Afghanistan as election officials get ready for the Presidential elections. Getty Images
Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai (L) is greeted by a group of Afghan military officers on his arrival to Kandahar airbase on May 04, 2002 in Southern Afghanistan. Getty Images
Soldiers in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division wade though a creek to avoid buried insurgent bombs while on patrol October 16, 2010 in Zhari district west of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Getty Images
British commandos descend from a mountain observation post overlooking the beginning of the Helmand River at the Kajaki hydroelectric dam on March 13, 2007 in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province. Getty Images
101st Airbornes 1st Sgt. Kerry Black from Westmoreland, Tennessee uses an Afghan child's sling shot on February 6, 2002 as children crowd around him while he patrols on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Getty Images
Marine Cpl. Jonathan Eckert of Oak Lawn, IL attached to India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment works his improvised explosive device (IED) sniffing dog Bee as they secure a compound during a patrol near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge on October 11, 2010 in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Getty Images
Afghan refugees walk across the border into Pakistan on October 11, 2001 as they leave Afghanistan at the Chaman crossing point on the 4th day of U.S.-led air strikes against the ruling Taliban and terrorist networks in the country. Getty Images
Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters watch several explosions from U.S. bombings in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan on December 16, 2001.
British Marines run under fire from the Taliban during a morning operation on March 18, 2007 near Kajaki in the Afghan province of Helmand. Getty Images
Afghan Army troops prepare to board a British chinook helicopter from their base at Shorabak on March 12, 2007 in Southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. Getty Images
British Marine Joe Harvey from Stafford, England (R), watches as British forces come under fire by Taliban insurgents on March 18, 2007 near Kajaki in the Afghan province of Helmand. Getty Images
U.S. Army 101st Airborne 3-187 "Bravo" company soliders pass through a corn field while conducting a sensitive site exploitation (SSE) mission July 23, 2002 near the town of Narizah in Southeastern Afghanistan. Getty Images
Scouts from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), pull overwatch during Operation Destined Strike while 2nd Platoon, Able Company searches a village below the Chowkay Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on August 22, 2006. US Army
A study by
Foreign Policy magazine released last week indicated that most of the Taliban fighters who were released after the February 29 agreement have returned to the battlefront.
“Sixty-eight per cent, of the 108 former Taliban prisoners profiled for the research have already been reintegrated into the Taliban and have resumed active roles in the conflict," the report said.
On Thursday, Mr Trump also announced the nomination of William Ruger as the next ambassador to Afghanistan.
Mr Ruger is a strong advocate for withdrawing US troops in Afghanistan.
A former veteran, he serves as vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute.
Updated: September 11, 2020 10:14 AM