Trump sends Pompeo to sign US-Taliban peace deal in Qatar

President Trump on Friday said he was sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Qatar Saturday to sign a US-Taliban peace deal that he predicted could mean the end of the 19-year-old war and that American troops could come home.

“At my direction, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will witness the signing of an agreement with representatives of the Taliban, while Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will issue a joint declaration with the government of Afghanistan,” the president said in a statement issued by the White House.

“If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.”

Trump said he was intent on fulfilling a campaign promise to end the war.

“When I ran for office, I promised the American people I would begin to bring our troops home, and seek to end this war. We are making substantial progress on that promise,” he declared, adding that the deal could bring peace to the war-torn region.

“These commitments represent an important step to a lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from Al Qaeda, ISIS and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm. Ultimately it will be up to the people of Afghanistan to work out their future. We, therefore, urge the Afghan people to seize this opportunity for peace and a new future for their country,” he continued while thanking the US troops and their families for their service during the war.

But some Afghans view Saturday’s expected signing with a heavy dose of skepticism, as the Taliban has refused to recognize the existing government.

They’ve spent decades living in a country at war — some their whole lives — and wonder if they can ever reach a state of peace.

The deal expected to be signed in Doha is meant to set the stage for a US troop withdrawal and to usher in talks among Afghans on both sides of the conflict about their country’s future.

There’s been bitter squabbling among political leaders, concern of a temporary truce being undermined, and the challenge of uniting a fractured country remains daunting.

Also on Saturday, Esper and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will sign a declaration “recommitting the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan,” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani.

Arash, an Afghan policeman in the capital of Kabul, was 7 years old when a US-led military coalition ousted the Taliban government in 2001 in retaliation for the Taliban harboring Osama bin Laden while he masterminded the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“We’ve had no escape from war,” Arash told AP, giving only his first name because he had not received permission from his superiors to speak to reporters.

He said he and his colleagues want peace, but that political leaders “are only thirsty for power, not for peace,” but that the Taliban were fellow Afghans and that “we should have peace with them.”

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