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Blinken tells Ghani U.S. supports Afghanistan peace process: statement

FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends Afghan Independence Day celebrations in Kabul

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed on Wednesday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani an ongoing review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, with the top American diplomat reiterating support for the peace process, the State Department said on Thursday

Blinken told Ghani that the United States is committed to a peace deal that includes “a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” according to the statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.

The Biden administration’s review of Afghanistan strategy includes how far the Taliban have fulfilled their commitments under a February 2020 accord for a phased U.S. troop withdrawal that is to be completed by May 1.

Administration officials have said the review will determine the U.S. force posture in Afghanistan.

The Taliban agreed in the February 2020 deal to reduce violence and to stop hosting al Qaeda fighters or allowing them to raise funds, recruit and train in Afghanistan.

U.S. and European officials have said the Taliban have not met their commitments and that surging violence does not create conditions for progress toward peace.

The insurgents say there are no al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. They have indicated they will resume attacks on foreign troops if Washington fails to adhere to the May 1 pullout deadline.

The U.S.-Taliban deal paved the way for negotiations between the insurgents and a delegation that includes Afghan officials on settling decades of strife. But the peace talks in Doha are deadlocked after starting six months late.

Blinken emphasized to Ghani “that the United States will continue close consultations with Afghan leaders, NATO allies and international partners on the way ahead,” Price said.

The presidential palace in Kabul said in a statement that Ghani and Blinken agreed on the need for continued bilateral cooperation and a successful peace process.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Jonathan Landayd; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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