MUNICH: The United States and the Taliban have agreed to a temporary truce that, if successful, would open the way for a deal that would bring American troops home from Afghanistan and end 18 years of war, reports AP.
The peace deal would call for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict to start next month, an eventual countrywide cease-fire and a commitment from the Taliban not to harbor terrorist groups like al Qaida, while setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.The truce marks a milestone in efforts to end America’s longest-running conflict and fulfill President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to bring U.S. troops home from foreign conflicts. But prospects for a real and lasting peace remain unclear.
Details were provided separately Friday by a senior U.S. official and a Taliban official, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The U.S. official said the agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” is “very specific” and covers the entire country, including Afghan government forces. There were indications a formal announcement could come as early as the weekend.
The official said the Taliban had committed to a halt in roadside and suicide bombings as well as rocket attacks. If the Taliban uphold their commitments, a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement would be signed within 10 days.
The Taliban official said the signing had been tentatively set for Feb. 29, with the start of the Afghan talks planned for March 10. The official said Germany and Norway have offered to host the talks but there has been no decision on the venue.
That Taliban official said the agreement would provide for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of the negotiations.Much will depend on the results of the all-Afghan negotiations, if and when they get off the ground. The presence of “spoilers” — those happy with the status quo — will remain a threat to peace efforts throughout the process, the U.S. senior official acknowledged.
Also uncertain are the gains made for Afghan women and girls since the fall of the Taliban months after the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ordered by Osama bin Laden from Afghan soil.
But, for the Taliban, the proposal represents a way to gain the political legitimacy they never had in the late 1990s when they first came to power.
The new developments came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper met Friday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of an international security forum in Munich.
To make good on its promise to release Taliban prisoners, Washington is going to need the cooperation of Ghani, who has been critical of the way U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has conducted the talks with the Taliban, complaining about being kept in the dark.