Alwaght- The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday visited Afghanistan capital Kabul heading a political delegation.
It was Pompeo's first trip to Kabul since Washington and the Taliban signed a peace deal on February 29 after nearly two years of talks.
The visit has drawn different speculations on the goals of Pompeo amid controversial presidential elections in Afghanistan which saw Abdullah Abdullah rejecting the reelection of Ashraf Ghani.
However, it seems that the visit by the top American diplomat has ended without any considerable achievements, signaling the US difficult path to bring the two sides in Afghanistan into a consensus over new government.
Pompeo’s visit fails
Upon his arrival to the capital Kabul, Pompeo met with the rivals Ghani and Abdullah.
The presidential palace in a Facebook statement said that the meeting which took place with the presence of Vice President Amrullah Saleh and National Security Advisor Hamdullah Moheb saw the two sides talking about the peace process and the next steps to be taken within this procedure.
Afghan media, quoting informed sources, reported that beside his separate meetings with Ghani and Abdullah, Pompeo arranged a meeting with the presence of the two to settle the disputes between them. The meetings ended without any outcome and Pompeo flew to Qatar ending the one-day visit.
The US foreign policy chief also addressed the peace talks and the impasse in the release of the Taliban prisoners. Reports said that he failed to make any difference regarding the two cases.
But why did Pompeo’s trip fail to yield any results?
Currently, Afghanistan is grappling with two major challenges. The first one is the questioned legitimacy of the Ghani presidency and the parallel government announced by Abdullah Abdullah. Although this challenge has just formed, it seems that it is the top priority in the Central Asian country.
The second challenge is the conclusion of the talks and deal between the US and the Taliban. Even though they inked it in Doha nearly a month ago, doubts are cast on its real terms and fate.
The important point is that to solve the Taliban peace challenge, the country first should solve the Ghani government controversy as well as the parallel government of Abdullah. After all, nearly half of the Afghanistan population challenge the Independent Election Commission’s announcement that named Ghani the winner of the presidential race.
Kabul government legitimacy challenge continuing
Apparently, Pompeo failed to settle the dispute between Ghani and Abdullah, who claims they have secured the majority of the votes in the September 18 election. The main reason behind the failure could be the previous experience of Abdullah in 2014 when US President Barack Obama sent his Secretary of State John Kerry to mediate between Ghani and Abdullah who were engaged in a dispute similar to today’s. With the mediation of Kerry, a national unity government was formed in which the power was practically concentrated in the hands of Ghani and Abdullah made no advances to realize his goals. To put it differently, Abdullah has no praiseworthy memory from the US mediation in the government crisis. So, he has rejected Kerry-style suggestions to participate in the Kabul power structure by Pompeo.
Abdullah knows it very well that US mediation is biased and intends to keep Ghani in power. For Abdullah's team, such an intention is unacceptable as was the mediation by the American envoy to Afghanistan affairs Zalmay Khalilzad.
Additionally, for the former CEO of Afghanistan, the period of the power partnership with Ghani has gone and he now names himself the legal president as he claimed pro-Ghani fraud in the election process. He sees the solution in the annulment of part of the votes and recount of the ballots. Such a suggestion apparently means that Abdullah rejects the power partnership offer of the Americans.
Outlook for peace talks challenge solution
While the Kabul government’s legitimacy is still questioned and the US mediation has so far made no difference to promote peace between Ghani and Abdullah, Washington peace talks with the Taliban insurgent group reaches a deadlock.
Following his unsuccessful visit to Afghanistan, Pompeo regretted the ongoing difference between the presidential candidates and said that Washington would cut over $1 billion of its aids to Kabul. The root cause of the US anger with the ongoing standstill in Kabul is the consequent impasse in the US-Taliban talks, held in Doha since 2018. Continued split in Kabul only increases the US costs in Afghanistan, a country in which the American forces have been fighting the insurgent group for 20 years without any victory.
One unavoidable party to the US-Taliban negotiations is the Afghan government which was asked by the Trump administration to free the Taliban prisoners and launch talks with the militant groups that has a vast territory of the country under its control. But now that the status of the government is indefinite, the pursuit of the peace process with the Taliban is ambiguous and uncertain.
Now, while the Taliban insist that they are committed to the agreement with the Americans and want it to prevail and succeed, the responsibility of the opposite side’s lack of commitment to the accord lies with Washington. In such a situation, the delicacy of the US-favored talks with the Taliban is highly predictable and in case of fall of the process the Taliban will hold Washington accountable as it fails to fulfill its promises related to the Kabul government as so far the Americans have proven incapable of solving the dual presidency crisis in Afghanistan.