US, Taliban reach agreement for seven-day reduction in violence

Monitoring Desk

MUNICH: The United States and Taliban have reached a deal for a seven-day reduction of violence in Afghanistan, a senior American official said Friday, unveiling details of the agreement Washington hopes will lead to a full peace accord.

The weeklong period has not yet begun but will do so “really soon”, the official said, contradicting a Taliban suggestion it would start on Friday.

The partial truce came after more than a year of gruelling talks between US officials and the Taliban as they seek an end to what has become the US’s longest war.

“The reduction of violence agreement is very specific. And… it’s nationwide and it includes the Afghans,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US military, which has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, will monitor the reduction in violence to ensure the Taliban upholds its commitments, the official said at the Munich Security Conference.

Some kind of communication channel between the US military and the Taliban is foreseen to address any problems that arise, including possible “false flag” attempts by outside actors to sabotage the accord.

“We will be monitoring, there will be verification associated with it to see if the Taliban deliver — if the Taliban deliver on their commitments we have commitments, in terms of reduction of forces that are also specific,” the official said.

The Taliban has long demanded the complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan but the official said any reduction in numbers will depend on the militants sticking to their side of the deal.

The official added that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a “very good meeting” to brief Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the deal on the sidelines of the Munich conference.

If the partial truce holds, the hope is that it could lead to a next stage of negotiations — between the Taliban and the Kabul government, with an eventual comprehensive peace deal the ultimate goal.

President Donald Trump hailed the reduction in violence as a sign that a fuller accord was “very close”.

But there have been previous false dawns, with a deal all but complete in September before Trump nixed it at the last moment amid continued Taliban violence.

Washington and its NATO allies have been adamant that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a launchpad for terror attacks in the West.

Facing an election later this year, Trump last month renewed his vow to bring troops home from Afghanistan, more than 18 years after the US invaded to overthrow the Taliban.

Courtesy: (AFP)