Negotiations between official Kabul and the Taliban should begin in the Qatari capital on Saturday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Qatari capital on Friday on the eve of the historic, long-awaited intra-Afghan peace talks that are due to begin on Saturday.
“It has taken us more time than I would like to get here since February 29, but we expect Saturday morning… The Afghans sitting at the same table will be ready to debate and discuss the future of their country,” Pompeo told reporters aboard the plane shortly after his departure from Washington on Thursday night.
The Trump Administration has initiated talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which will allow the U.S. to withdraw from the longest foreign military campaign in the country’s history and give the president the opportunity to announce an important foreign policy success ahead of the November 3 election.
U.S. Special envoy for negotiations in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at a Friday conference call that the talks will be a “test for both sides.
“This is a new stage in diplomatic negotiations for peace in Afghanistan. We are now part of an Afghan-led process,” he said, adding that the United States will continue to monitor the talks and engage with both sides.
Earlier, an Afghan government team flew from Kabul to Doha.
“Today we are going to Doha with hope and confidence to create an environment in Afghanistan where gunshots are not heard … and the Afghan people achieve what they deserve,” said Nader Naderi, a member of the negotiating team that flew from Kabul.
Nader Naderi, a member of the negotiating team that left Kabul, is expected to begin talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban on Saturday, as stipulated in the February agreement between the United States and the Taliban.
Pompeo’s arrival in Doha on Friday coincided with the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, which sparked U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban’s power to harbor Osama bin Laden, an al-Qaida militant leader who planned the attacks.