US, Taliban reach weeklong truce that could lead to US withdrawal

TEHRAN, Feb. 15 (MNA) – The United States has reached an agreement with the Taliban on a weeklong reduction of violence that could lead to a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a report cited a senior US official as saying on Friday.

The deal was struck in protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha and was announced after a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

According to a report by Reuters, the accord - if it holds - could pave the way for an agreement by the end of the month on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and end 18 years of war.

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 US troops, according to The National.

The report quoted the US official as saying that the agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” is “very specific” and covers the entire country, including Afghan government forces.

According to The National, a Taliban official said the signing had been tentatively set for February 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.

The Taliban official added the agreement would provide for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of the negotiations.

US officials have not publicly spelled out their timetable for an initial drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan, but the expectation is that a reduction from the current total of about 12,000 to approximately 8,600 will begin after the signing of a US-Taliban deal.

The Taliban official said the withdrawal of foreign troops would start gradually and be carried out over 18 months, according to the report. 

MNA/PR

News Code 155637

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