U.S. state secretary pays unannounced visit to Afghanistan

FILE - In this June 25, 2019, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy Kabul during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. On Monday, March 23, 2020, Pompeo arrived in Kabul on an urgent visit to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban. Pompeo's trip to the Afghan capital comes despite the coronavirus pandemic, at a time when world leaders and statesmen are curtailing official travel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Monday and expected to meet Afghan leaders including President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah, a private television channel Tolonews reported.

The visit is taking place amid stalemate in peace talks with the Taliban outfit and political turmoil as both leaders have taken oath as president of the conflict-battered country.

Officials have not made comments yet.

The U.S. and Taliban outfit inked a peace deal on Feb. 29 to pave the way for the withdrawal of thousands of the U.S.-led coalition forces from Afghanistan, and to secure 5,000 Taliban prisoners from Afghan government’s jails within 10 days ahead of Taliban-government talks.

Afghan government has yet to release the Taliban detainees, demanding the Taliban group to observe ceasefire and initiate talks ahead of the detainees release.

Afghanistan’s election commission on Feb. 18 declared Ghani the winner of the presidential polls but his rival Abdullah disputed the result. Both held simultaneous inauguration ceremonies as president in Kabul earlier in March. The power division within the Afghan government has undermined the U.S.-led peace effort. Enditem

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