Speaking to Breitbart News on Sunday, while flying back to the United States, Pompeo said the full troops withdrawal was conditions-based and that there were three key conditions that needed to be met by the Afghan government and the Taliban in order for this to happen.
“One, there is an obligation they [Taliban] have with respect to foreign terrorist groups — primarily al-Qaeda, but all four terrorist groups — they are not permitted, and the language is very clear that they are not permitted and that they have to break with them.
“Second, they [Afghanistan and Taliban] have to engage in these conversations in a way that is substantive and not just physically sit in the room, but they need to have serious conversations and begin to work their way through it.
“Then, third, they have a responsibility as part of that to ensure that outside actors don’t act as spoilers for this, and there are many hands who would like to see this undone and would like to see America mired in Afghanistan for another 20 years. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban have a responsibility to prevent that,” he told Breitbart.
“Those are the conditions, we’ll measure them. There’s a set of CT metrics that’s pretty clearly laid out. We’ll measure them and the president will make a decision if there’s sufficient compliance to get us to zero. I think we’re on a pathway to achieve that.”
This is in line with the US’s deal with the Taliban signed in Doha in February that stipulates a full drawdown of troops by next spring if conditions are met.
One key condition is that the Taliban break ties with al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups. Another condition is that the Taliban agrees not to harbor terrorist groups, as they were doing prior to the US invasion following the 9/11 attacks.
Pompeo also stated that the US “finally have the Afghans prepared to sit down and have a serious conversation about taking their country forward without all the violence.”
He told Breitbart that President Donald Trump had laid out two objectives. One was to reduce the American footprint in Afghanistan and get its forces home and secondly, to make sure America is protected.
“I think we’re, today, on our way to putting America in a place where we can do both of those things,” he said.
On the start of peace talks Saturday, between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he said the “meetings went as could be expected at the first gathering. They were getting their teams together, getting to know each other, and they began to set out the framework of what negotiations will look like.”
He said there are “some very, very difficult issues and there will be bumps in the road, but back in February, we were hoping that today would come back in March or April. It’s been six months, but I’m happy with the progress that was made today. I think they’ll meet again tomorrow in Doha and then they’ll go back and start on the framework of the negotiations not long after that.”
Sticking Points Discussed
Asked what challenges could be expected ahead of a peace agreement, Pompeo said that the “central challenge” is how power will be shared among the various parties in the country.
“In the end, the central challenge is what will the Afghan government look like,” Pompeo said.
“What will be the power-sharing arrangement? This is a challenge anytime you have throughout history insurgencies and other times when nations have civil strife. We took al-Qaeda out, and the Taliban still have weapons and the capacity to inflict damage.
“We made clear to them when I met with them today [Saturday] — the Taliban — that they have an obligation to reduce violence immediately and significantly so these negotiations can proceed. So there will be issues of power-sharing and how the government is established at the center of the conversation.”
Asked about his meeting with Taliban co-founder and lead negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Pompeo told Breitbart News that he is “convinced” there is a “solution” to the differences between the two sides.
“It’s the third time, maybe the fourth time, that I’ve spoken to him — the second time I’ve met with him in person. They have a very clear set of objectives, of things that they are laying down that they want and they need,” Pompeo said.
“When I understand what the Afghan government wants and needs, and what the people of Afghanistan outside of the Taliban and Taliban-controlled territories want, I’m convinced there is a solution to this. I hope that that’s the case.”