KABUL -- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, making his first visit to Kabul since Washington launched talks with the Taliban last year, said on Tuesday (June 25) that he hopes for a peace deal with the insurgents "before September 1".
Pompeo met with President Ashraf Ghani and with US Gen. Scott Miller, who leads NATO's Afghanistan mission and the US war effort in the country, as well as with high-level Afghan officials during the unannounced one-day visit.
Peace is Washington's "highest priority", he said. The United States last September began a fresh push to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end America's longest war.
"I hope we have a peace deal before September 1; that's certainly our mission set," Pompeo said during the visit.
"Afghanistan has come far in the last 18 years. Afghans yearn for #peace and we share their desire to end the conflict. Peace would offer Afghans and the wider region a different future, one which we are ready to support," he said in a tweet.
Hoping for a deal before elections
US officials have previously said they are hoping for a deal before the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, which have already been delayed twice and are now set for September.
The next round of talks between the Taliban and the United States is set to begin Saturday (June 29) in Doha.
The talks have centred on four issues: counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
The Taliban have insisted that foreign troops must leave and refused to speak with the Afghan government in Kabul, whom they deem "puppets".
The United States is almost ready to conclude a "draft text" outlining Taliban promises never to allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for international terrorism again, said Pompeo.
"In light of this progress, we've begun discussions with the Taliban regarding foreign military presence, which today remains conditions-based," he said.
"While we've made clear to the Taliban that we're prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we've not yet agreed on a timeline to do so," Pompeo added.