Pompeo says path forward in Afghanistan remains “rocky and bumpy” despite Taliban deal

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS News) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Sunday that the road ahead in Afghanistan will be rough following the historic peace deal the United States signed with the Taliban this weekend.
 
“It’s going to be rocky and bumpy,” Pompeo said on “Face the Nation.” “No one is under any false illusion that this won’t be a difficult conversation, but that conversation for the first time in almost two decades will be among the Afghan people, and that’s the appropriate place for that conversation to take place.”

Pompeo was in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday for the signing of the peace deal, which seeks to bring U.S. troops home following the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan. America’s longest war has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. service members and cost the federal government more than $750 billion.

The agreement between the U.S. and Taliban militants calls for a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 in the next 135 days, followed by the withdrawal of all troops within 14 months. The deal also lays out the details of a prisoner swap, with up to 5,000 Taliban to be released in exchange for 1,000 imprisoned Afghan security forces by March 10.

The Taliban, meanwhile, must not allow its members or members of other groups including al Qaeda to use Afghanistan to threaten the security of the U.S. and its allies. The Taliban and the Afghan are required to begin peace talks March 10 under the terms of the deal.

President Trump said the pact is a vital step toward ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing American service members home, but administration officials have also acknowledged its success is contingent on the Taliban fulfilling its obligations.
 
“No one is under any illusion that this will be straight forward,” Pompeo said. “We’ve built an important base where we can begin to bring American soldiers home, reduce the risk of the loss of life of any American in Afghanistan and hopefully set the conditions so the Afghan people can build out a peaceful resolution to their now what for them is a 40-year struggle.”

Pompeo, the first U.S. Cabinet official ever to meet with a member of the Taliban, said the group has “an enormous amount of American blood on their hands.”

“It’s not about trust,” the secretary of state said. “It’s about what happens on the ground not only yesterday, which was an important day, but in the days that follow.”

Signed by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deal has been criticized by some Republicans and former White House officials.

GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming said Saturday the deal “includes concessions that could threaten the security of the United States” and lacks a “disclosed mechanism to verify Taliban compliance.”

Pompeo said “every member of Congress will get a chance to see” the classified “military implementation documents,” and denied “any side deals.” 

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, said the agreement is “an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population.”

“This is an Obama-style deal,” he tweeted. “Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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