WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. general met Taliban representatives this week in Qatar, urging them to reduce the level of violence and move more swiftly towards a political solution in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said on Thursday.
The meeting in Doha with the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, comes as negotiators representing the Afghan government and the Taliban take a break until Jan. 5 when they will continue to work on an agenda.
Milley also met Taliban officials in June but that meeting was not publicly announced, said a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The two meetings are believed to be the first time a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has met the Taliban, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top U.S. military official in Afghanistan have met with them before.
“The chairman discussed the need for an immediate reduction of violence and accelerate progress towards a negotiated political solution which contributes to regional stability and safeguards U.S. national interests,” a U.S. military statement said.
During his trip, Milley also met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.
President Donald Trump will reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 from 4,500 by mid-January, stopping short of a threatened full withdrawal from America’s longest war after fierce opposition from allies at home and abroad.
There has been a rise in violence, undermining the best hope for ending the war that has ravaged Afghanistan since 2001.
Pompeo said this month that violence in Afghanistan was “unacceptably high” and said Washington had asked the warring parties to “stand back and indeed stand down.”
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alison Williams and Edmund Blair)