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US and Taliban reach 'understanding' to reduce violence, Pompeo says

The US and Taliban have agreed a seven-day reduction in violence starting from midnight on Friday, local time, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The seven days will culminate in the signing of a US-Taliban agreement on 29 February. Mr Pompeo says that Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter between the Taliban and the Government of National Unity.

The Taliban have previously refused to speak with the government in Kabul, seeing it as an American puppet.

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It is hoped that this represents a chance for peace after 18 years of war and an opportunity to formulate a future political roadmap for the war-torn country. 

Past attempts at negotiating peace agreements have been scuttled by Taliban attacks on international forces.

In a tweet, secretary Pompeo said: “After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan. This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement: “Following lengthy negotiations between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the United States of America, both parties agreed to sign the finalised accord in the presence of international observers.” 

The agreement will be signed in Doha between Taliban representatives and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been leading the United States negotiation team. Negotiators have been meeting in Doha since 2018.

Donald Trump hopes to eventually be able to pull US forces out of Afghanistan as part of his promise to wind down America’s “endless wars.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the move saying that it could pave the way for sustainable peace. There are 16,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. 

Afghan forces will continue operations against other groups, such as Islamic State and remain prepared to retaliate against any violation of the agreement by the Taliban.