The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Monday in Kabul and is expected to push forward a US peace deal signed last month with the Taliban, the AP reported.
Since the signing of the deal, the peace process has become stalled both because of a standoff over the terms of a prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and also because the post-election Afghan government is not united.
One roadblock to the peace process is the internal feuding on the Afghan government side between Ashraf Ghani and his main rival in last Septembers presidential polls, Abdullah Abdullah, both of whom have declared themselves the countrys president in dueling inauguration ceremonies earlier this month.
During his visit, Pompeo is expected to try to help end the impasse, which has put on hold the start of intra-Afghan peace talks that would include the Taliban.
Those talks are seen as a critical next step in the peace deal, negotiated to allow the United States to bring home its troops and give Afghans the best chance at peace.
On Sunday a video conference session was held between an Afghan government team and the Taliban--with US and Qatari officials also joining in- in which the prisoner release and other steps in the peace process were discussed. The urgency to act amid the coronavirus was discussed, said US peace envoy Zalmay Khalizad. He also said another meeting is planned.
The US and NATO have already begun to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan.
The final pullout of US forces is not dependent on the success of intra-Afghan negotiations but rather on promises made by the Taliban to deny space in Afghanistan to other terror groups, such as the insurgents rival Islamic State group.
On March 19, The US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells in a tweet said that the Afghan leaders must prioritize and protect the unity of the nation, saying that "parallel Afghan governments are not the answer, and will be harmful to the Afghan people."
The US-Taliban deal signed in Qatar on Feb. 28 calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners to open the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.
The deadline for the release was March 10. President Ghani has agreed to release 1,500 prisoners, gradually, ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations.