Pompeo says U.S. is willing to sign peace agreement with Taliban

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said the United States remains willing to sign an Afghanistan peace agreement with the Taliban.

In an interview with McClatchy’s The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star, Pompeo said the United States was working on a deal with the Afghanistan government and added, “we may sign agreements with others as well, including the Taliban.”

Earlier this week, TIME reported that Pompeo would not sign an official agreement with Taliban leaders because it would give legitimacy to a group the United States has been fighting, and failing to reach a successful peace negotiation with, for almost two decades.

The Trump and Obama administrations tried for years to get both the Taliban and Afghan government to pursue a political reconciliation that the West sees as critical to ending non-stop attacks on Afghan civilians, U.S. and coalition troops and the Afghan government.

In the latest attack, a car bomb on Thursday claimed by the Taliban near NATO headquarters in Kabul killed one U.S. service member and one Romanian coalition soldier and an estimated 10 civilians. The attack brought the total number of U.S. service members killed this year to 15, making it the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since 2015.

More than 2,300 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan since U.S. forces arrived there a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Pompeo called media reports that the United States would not sign an agreement with the Taliban “ungrounded” and “ridiculous.”

“We think we can get commitments for the Afghans to talk for the first time, in, goodness, almost 20 years now. We hope we achieve it and Ambassador Khalilzad is still in the region working on that even today,” Pompeo said, referring to the U.S. envoy for peace talks with the Taliban, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

“If we get those outcomes, if we get those agreements, then President Trump will ultimately have to make a decision about exactly what our force posture will look like. But I know the principles that drive that decision making for him,” he said.

Tara Copp reported from Washington.

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Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.
Tara Copp is the national military and veterans affairs correspondent for McClatchy. She has reported extensively through the Middle East, Asia and Europe to cover defense policy and its impact on the lives of service members. She was previously the Pentagon bureau chief for Military Times and a senior defense analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She is the author of the award-winning book “The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story.”