WASHINGTON – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has expressed his disappointment at the postponement of talks between representatives of Taliban and the Afghan government, an official statement said on Sunday.
Pompeo, according to a Department of State spokesperson, spoke to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on telephone on April 20 and also condemned the Taliban militant group’s “recent announcement of a spring offensive” amid peace talks with the US.
The Taliban vow to capture urban areas during their annual spring offensive in the war-torn country came just few days ahead of a scheduled first intra-Afghan dialog in Doha, Qatar, in which representatives of the government and the insurgent group were expected to take part.
However, the meeting in Qatar which was to be held on April 19 was put off indefinitely after the host country rejected a list of 250 participants submitted by Kabul.
US State Department Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo and Ghani discussed the issue.
The Secretary of State “expressed the United States’ disappointment that the intra-Afghan dialog, planned for Doha, Qatar, had been postponed,” Ortagus said in the statement.
“The Secretary and President Ghani agreed that the Doha conference presents an important opportunity to advance peace,” she added.
In that regard, Pompeo “encouraged all sides to seize the moment and reach an understanding on participants, so that an inclusive intra-Afghan dialog can be convened in Doha as soon as possible,” the statement said.
Pompeo also condemned “the Taliban’s recent announcement of a spring offensive and underscored the United States’ solidarity with the Afghan people’s pursuit of a comprehensive peace agreement that would end the suffering and destruction,” the department spokesperson said.
Officials from the US and the Taliban have held several rounds of talks in recent months in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to end war in Afghanistan that has entered into its 18th year.
Ghani’s government has fiercely opposed the talks and has insisted on having a central role in negotiations with the Taliban.
As the insurgents refuse to engage with Kabul, the government announced it would intensify the offensive against the group.
Currently, the Afghan government controls just 55 percent of the country, while the Taliban rule over approximately 11 percent. The remaining territory is contested between the parties, according to data published by the US Congress’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
On Saturday, three insurgents attacked the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Kabul, where around 2,000 employees were rescued by security forces.
The police safely evacuated around nearly 2,000 employees from the government office complex.
No group claimed the attack while the Taliban has distanced itself from it.