Tue, Oct 22, 2019 - Page 6 News List

EU urges Afghan ceasefire as US officials visit Kabul

AP, KABUL

EU officials on Sunday called for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, saying the breakdown in US-Taliban talks presented an opportunity to push for a truce, as the US defense secretary made an unexpected visit to Kabul.

US President Donald Trump last month declared talks with the insurgents “dead,” citing a Taliban attack that killed a US soldier.

Negotiations had been in the final stages for a deal that would have seen the US pull troops from Afghanistan after 18 years in return for various Taliban guarantees.

However, to the dismay of many Afghans and international observers, the deal included no immediate, comprehensive ceasefire, and rather would supposedly have paved the way for a reduction in violence and later talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

EU special envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia said the talks’ collapse provided a chance to push for a ceasefire which would, in turn, prove a large enough change in Afghanistan for Trump to consider resuming negotiations.

“It’s the right moment and the right opportunity to maybe go one step beyond a simple reduction in violence and explore ways in which a ceasefire ... will take place,” Kobia told Kabul journalists.

“The idea is really to see how we can move the ceasefire idea forward instead of leaving it for later... There is an opportunity here today,” he said.

When asked how the EU, which has only a limited footprint in Afghanistan, could leverage a truce, Kobia suggested that the Taliban might return to power in “one form or another” within months and so would entertain a truce to help normalize future relations with the European bloc.

“A ceasefire would be a token, a guarantee of goodwill and good preparation for the normalization of these relationships,” Kobia said.

The Taliban have steadfastly ruled out an immediate ceasefire.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Sunday arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit to meet with US troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“I’m looking ... to get a really good feel for what’s happening on the ground in Afghanistan, and to talk what the way ahead may look like as well,” Esper told reporters accompanying him, according to a Pentagon transcript.

“We think a political agreement is always the best way forward with regard to next steps in Afghanistan,” he added.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is leading an impeachment probe into Trump, also made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Sunday as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation.

Pelosi met with Ghani and Esper as well as US troops and diplomats and Afghan civil society leaders, including women.

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