afghan-war:-us,-taliban-close-to-‘reduction-in-violence’-deal

A US-Taliban agreement on the “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan is expected to be announced “very soon”, the group’s official has said.

“We have made some significant progress and will soon release a statement on the agreement on reduction of violence in Afghanistan,” the Taliban official told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

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The agreement could lead to the signing of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban to end Afghanistan’s 18-year war, the US’s longest conflict.

The prospective deal would see the US pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, in return for which the Taliban would provide various security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Kabul government.

The Taliban has so far refused to speak to the West-backed government in Kabul, calling it a “puppet regime”.

On Tuesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was informed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “notable progress” in the continuing talks between the US and the Taliban in Qatar’s capital, Doha

Washington also said late on Tuesday that an agreement on the group’s “reduction of violence” offer was days away.

Today, I was pleased to receive a call from @SecPompeo, informing me of the notable progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban. The Secretary informed me about the Taliban’s proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence.

— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) February 11, 2020

‘Cautiously optimistic’

The Taliban maintains a political office in Doha, where US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad often meets the group’s representatives in talks that seek to find a resolution to the Afghan war.

The talks had been deadlocked in part over a US demand that the armed group agree to significantly reduce violence as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.

US President Donald Trump‘s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said on Tuesday he is “cautiously optimistic” there could be a US agreement with the Taliban over the next few days or weeks, but that a withdrawal of US forces is not “imminent”.

The “reduction of violence” deal would call for the Taliban and the US to refrain from conducting attacks or combat operations for seven days, according to a person familiar with the continuing discussions, who was not authorised to discuss the proposal and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The agreement, which Trump would still have to sign off on, would be followed within 10 days by all-Afghan negotiations to set up a plan for the political future of a post-war Afghanistan.

There are currently about 13,000 US forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

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