Pompeo urges key Afghan gathering to free Taliban prisoners

Pompeo urges key Afghan gathering to free Taliban prisoners

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Washington: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged prominent Afghans to hold a major meeting on Friday to release Taliban prisoners and promised to help war-torn countries if they make progress in peace efforts.

“We acknowledge that the release of these prisoners is unpopular,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“But this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war.”

In a statement unthinkable after the September 11, 2001 attacks triggered the US invasion, the top US diplomat told Afghan leaders that the Taliban were committed to reducing violence after talks start.

“The United States intends to hold the Taliban to these commitments,” Pompeo said.

The Taliban demanded the release of 400 prisoners, many of whom were accused of serious crimes, and more than 150 were sentenced to death. This is a condition for the start of peace talks with the internationally recognized Kabul government.

President Ashraf Ghani postponed the decision whether to release the prisoners to the Loya Jirga. The Loya Jirga is a traditional meeting of tribal elders and other stakeholders in Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump’s administration is eager to end America’s longest war and demonstrate its foreign policy success before the November election.

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban on February 29, under which all U.S. troops will withdraw before mid-2021.

Pompeo vowed that the United States will continue to support Afghanistan.

“We are ready to support a peace settlement, including by extending US development programs to previously underserved areas,” Pompeo said. 

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