US-Taliban truce begins, raising hopes of peace deal

A week-long “reduction in violence” between the Taliban, the United States and Afghan security forces took effect on Friday, raising hopes for a resolution to the 18-year-long war.

The agreement struck during negotiations between US and Taliban representatives, if maintained, could secure a peace deal that would lead to a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

 

In a televised address, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the reduction in violence (RIV) would begin at midnight local time on Friday (19:30 GMT). The army will “remain on active defence status during the week”, he said.

Earlier, Javid Faisal, spokesman for Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, said Afghan forces will keep up normal military operations against other armed groups, such ISIL (ISIS) during the RIV period.

In a televised address, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the reduction in violence (RIV) would begin at midnight local time on Friday (19:30 GMT). The army will “remain on active defence status during the week”, he said.

Earlier, Javid Faisal, spokesman for Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, said Afghan forces will keep up normal military operations against other armed groups, such ISIL (ISIS) during the RIV period.

“Local government and security officials have been instructed by the president himself on how to follow the regulations agreed upon for the RIV period,” he said, adding that Afghan forces will also retaliate to any violation of the understanding.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that upon successful implementation of this agreement, the US would move to sign a peace deal with the Taliban on February 29.

Soon after Pompeo’s announcement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the development and said both sides will invite senior representatives to take part in the peace deal “signing ceremony”.

The Taliban’s statement also said the signing of the peace deal would be followed by intra-Afghan talks with various political parties in the country.

The Afghan armed group, which was removed from power in a US-led invasion in 2001, has previously refused to speak directly to the Kabul government, which it denounces as a “US puppet”.

‘Historic opportunity’

The two sides have been wrangling over the US demand for putting a ceasefire in place before the final peace agreement is signed. The deal is expected to outline the withdrawal of US troops and a guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used as a launchpad to conduct attacks on foreign countries.

The talks were launched in 2018 as part of a push by US President Donald Trump’s administration to strike a deal with the Taliban, which has been fighting the US-led forces in Afghanistan since it was toppled from power in 2001.

Trump has long expressed eagerness to bring US soldiers home and to end the country’s longest war as he seeks re-election in 2020. The two sides were on the verge of signing a peace agreement in September when Trump abruptly cancelled the talks after a Taliban attack killed an American soldier.

About 14,000 US troops and some 17,000 troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries are stationed in Afghanistan in a non-combatant role.

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