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US Secretary Of State makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

Secretary Pompeo delivers remarks at the Foreign Affairs Day celebration, at the Department of State, on May 3, 2019. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes for a peace deal with the Taliban “before September 1,” as he spoke to reporters in Kabul during an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital on June 25.

Pompeo met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other high-level Afghan officials as well as General Scott Miller, who leads NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

Pompeo said peace was Washington’s “highest priority” in Afghanistan.

“I hope we have a peace deal before September 1, that’s certainly our mission set,” Pompeo said.

The United States began a fresh push last September to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the Afghan war.

Pompeo’s visit to Kabul comes ahead of a seventh round of peace talks between Taliban leaders and U.S. officials. The next round of talks is scheduled to begin on June 29 in Doha.

The talks will focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee that militants will not plot attacks from Afghan soil.

“All sides agree that finalizing a U.S.-Taliban understanding on terrorism and foreign troop presence will open the door to intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiation,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo stopped over on his way to New Delhi for meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials. He arrived in Kabul from the Middle East where he held talks with Saudi and United Arab Emirates leaders on the ongoing Iran crisis.