The US and Taliban are set to sign a peace deal that could signal the end of the US’s longest war after nearly two years of protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital, Doha.Diplomats from Afghanistan, the US, India, Pakistan and other UN member states started gathering on Saturday morning along with Taliban representatives at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, a five-star resort overlooking the Gulf where the peace deal is expected to be signed at 11:00 GMT.
“Nearly 19 years ago, American service members went to Afghanistan to root out the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. In that time, we have made great progress in Afghanistan, but at great cost to our brave service members, to the American taxpayers, and to the people of Afghanistan.
“When I ran for office, I promised the American people I would begin to bring our troops home, and seek to end this war. We are making substantial progress on that promise,” Trump said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has arrived in the Qatari capital, will witness the signing, while Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is expected to issue a joint declaration with the government of Afghanistan in Kabul.
The deal comes a week after a “reduction in violence” (RIV) agreement announced by Washington, which has largely held.
Over the past week, at least 19 security forces and four civilians have been killed – a marked decrease compared with previous weeks – fatalities the Afghan government attributed to the Taliban.
‘The result of a precursor phase’
It is hoped that Saturday’s signing will unlock intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and Afghan stakeholders, including the country’s West-backed government, to decide the future course of the country.
Calling the deal a pre-agreement, analysts said the real challenge in establishing lasting peace will lie in the talks – the details of which remain unclear.