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Afghan president says Pompeo reports progress in U.S.-Taliban talks

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday he was told by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “notable progress” had been made in talks between the United States and the Taliban on an agreement for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a post on Twitter, Ghani that Pompeo had informed him in a telephone call that the Taliban had made a proposal “with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence.”

Ghani’s tweet indicated a possible breakthrough in talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators, who have been deadlocked in part over a U.S. demand that the insurgents agree to significantly reduce violence as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made a withdrawal of the 13,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan a major foreign policy objective and a pullout accord with the Taliban could boost his re-election prospects this November.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Taliban officials were not immediately available for comment.

In his tweet, Ghani wrote that Pompeo had told him “of the notable progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban.”

“The Secretary informed me about the Taliban’s proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence,” he continued, adding, “This is a welcoming development.”

Ghani appeared to take credit for the development, writing that “our principal position on peace thus far has begun to yield fruitful results.”

The Afghan president has called on the Taliban to agree to a nationwide ceasefire, a demand also made by Trump in September when he scuttled months of negotiations with the insurgents led by Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, a U.S. special envoy.

The Taliban, however, have steadfastly rejected the demand. In the talks that resumed in Doha, the Qatari capital, in December, U.S. negotiators have pressed the insurgents to agree to a significant reduction in violence.

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