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Kabul, Afghanistan – The U.S. secretary of state has left Afghanistan without saying whether he was able to broker an agreement between the country’s squabbling political leaders.

Mike Pompeo made the urgent surprise visit to Kabul on Monday, traveling thousands of miles despite a near-global travel shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Afghanistan’s political impasse threatens to severely undermine a peace agreement Washington signed with the Taliban last month.

Pompeo met separately with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah. Pompeo was urging a compromise be reached in order to jump-start intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban, a critical next step to the peace deal.

Talks between Afghans on both sides of the conflict are a critical part of the U.S. peace deal. That deal spells out the withdrawal of U.S. troops over the next 14 months and gives Afghanistan its best chance at peace after decades of war.

The final pullout of U.S. 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. The withdrawal will go ahead even without successful intra-Afghan talks.

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Gannon reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Matt Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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