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Pompeo Meets With Taliban, Afghan Negotiators To Press Cease-Fire

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Taliban leaders to swiftly negotiate a permanent cease-fire in Afghanistan after a meeting on November 21 in Qatar.

Pompeo also called for a reduction in violence, a State Department spokesman said in a statement after Pompeo met Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other members of the group's negotiating team.

The State Department spokesman said Pompeo "called for a significant reduction in violence and encouraged expedited discussions on a political road map and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire.”

Pompeo issued his own comments after taking part in the meetings.

“As I depart Doha, I’m confident that we can build on our efforts to bring greater security and prosperity to the region,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

Pompeo is on a seven-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East.

He also met Qatar's ruler and foreign minister during his stop in Doha, which is the Taliban's base for diplomacy.

The historic talks between the government and the Taliban kicked off in mid-September but have faced gridlock over procedural issues.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced it would soon withdraw about 2,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, speeding up the schedule established in a February agreement between Washington and the Taliban that envisions a complete U.S. troop withdrawal in mid-2021.

The Taliban and other extremist militants continue to carry out attacks despite the peace talks.

The Afghan government blamed the Taliban for about two dozen rockets that hit residential areas of Kabul on November 21, killing at least eight people and wounding about a dozen more.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a video statement that "the Taliban fired 24 rockets" into five different districts of Kabul, including areas close to the diplomatic enclave where foreign embassies are located.

Arian described the rocket attacks as "a clear sign of defeat on the part of the Taliban," adding that "revenge will be taken for this heinous act."

The Taliban denied any involvement in the attack.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) extremist group later on November 21 claimed that it carried out the rocket attacks on Kabul.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attacks and reiterated his call for a reduction in violence followed by a cease-fire.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, a body that oversees the peace talks with the Taliban, condemned the latest attack in Kabul as a "cowardly" act.

He told AFP in an interview on November 21 during a visit to Turkey that while the talks in Doha haven't moved toward "the main agenda," they are "very close" to getting to substantial issues such as security.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
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