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NATO Chief Meets Pompeo, Backs U.S. Afghan Peace Efforts

FILE: NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg, right, looks on as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, makes opening remarks at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers' Session 1 at the U.S. State Department in Washington in April.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the Western security alliance "fully supports" U.S. efforts to clinch a peace deal in Afghanistan.

"Great discussion with @SecPompeo on current security issues. #NATO fully supports efforts to achieve peace in #Afghanistan. I condemn recent horrific attacks & NATO remains committed to supporting Afghan forces," Stoltenberg said in a tweet after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on September 3.

The two met as the United States looks to finalize a deal with the Taliban to end 18 years of conflict and pave the way for direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

Despite progress in the talks, violence has continued to plague Afghanistan.

The Taliban took credit for killing at least 16 civilians involving a car bombing and gunmen in Kabul on September 2 even as the Afghan-based militant group agreed “in principle” to a deal with the United States.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on September 2 the Taliban has agreed "in principle" that any Afghan territory it controls in the future will not be used as a sanctuary for terrorists to launch attacks against the United States and its allies.

He also said that U.S. and Taliban negotiators had also agreed on the gradual "reduction and withdrawal" of Western forces from Afghanistan.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Washington would reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan by almost half, to 8,600, if the peace deal is finalized.

NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, handing security responsibility over to the Afghans, but maintains around 17,000 troops on the ground to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces.

Pompeo arrived in Brussels late on September 2 and held talks with European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen.

He is also due to meet other EU leaders due to take over top roles in Brussels, including the EU's incoming foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell.

With reporting by dpa and AFP

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