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U.S., Taliban reach violence reduction pact

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By Paul Carrel, Jonathan Landay and Humeyra Pamuk

The United States has reached agreement with the Taliban on a weeklong reduction of violence that could lead to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a senior administration official said on Friday, while cautioning that the insurgents must honor commitments for the accord to stick.

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

The accord - if it holds - could pave the way for an agreement by the end of the month on a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a long-sought objective for U.S. President Donald Trump, who has vowed to stop the "endless wars" as he seeks re-election in November.

"It was violence that derailed the signing of the agreement in September. Now we have an agreement on the reduction of violence. And, should the Talibs implement what they've committed to doing, we will move forward with the agreement," the senior administration official told reporters in Munich.

The seven-day period has not yet started, but will go into effect soon, the official said.

There were no immediate comments from Ghani's government or the Taliban.

There remains a long way to go to a peace settlement and end to the nearly two-decade-old U.S. military presence that began shortly after the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida. U.S. officials have been clear that the 13,000 U.S. troops will be cut to about 8,600 this year, with or without a withdrawal deal.

The reduction in violence agreement "is a good step on a very long road," said Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

LONG PATH TO PEACE DEAL

A U.S. withdrawal agreement would be followed by negotiations on a political settlement between the Taliban and an Afghan delegation that would include government officials. One of the first issues would be a nationwide ceasefire.

The so-called intra-Afghan dialogue, however, is likely to be difficult and protracted. The Taliban have refused to speak directly to the government, which they denounce as a U.S. puppet. Kabul's negotiating team has yet to be named, and there has been long wrangling over its composition.

It also remained to be seen if the Taliban leadership has full control over all its fighters.

The senior U.S. official made clear that a full U.S. withdrawal will depend on the Taliban fulfilling commitments to end their close ties with al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

"Our commitment, in terms of reduction of forces which is both conditions-based and in phases, is very much tied to delivery on the commitments that they have made, and will be," said the official. "There will be no hosting, no training, no recruitment, no fund-raising."

The official, however, noted that provision covered only Taliban-controlled territory, meaning it does not apply to Taliban sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan, which U.S. officials accuse of supporting the insurgents. Islamabad denies the allegation.

The official said the reduction in violence agreement was very specific and covered all Afghan forces. The U.S. military would monitor violence levels to verify whether the Taliban were honoring it.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Doha since 2018 even as fighting has raged and hundreds of civilians and combatants have been killed as the insurgents have expanded their territorial control.

Last month the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government agency, assessed that there were a record-high number of attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces in the last three months of 2019.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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I bet my bank balance this happened on the base I just left.

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I bet my bank balance this happened on the base I just left.

You were on the air base southwest of Doha?

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who has vowed to stop the "endless wars" as he seeks re-election in November.

Trump has shown his 'vows' mean nothing. I'm sure some of his handlers have told him a war before the election could hurt his re-election chances.

And that if he's re-elected he can start wars wherever he and the neo-cons in his cabinet want.

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This issue great news if Trump can broker some kind of peace deal and withdrawal plan. Liberals will still complain about it somehow but it will be great nonetheless.

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@blacklabLiberals will still complain 

By 'liberals' I assume you once again mean individuals who have viewpoints different from yours, Trump's, Putin's and others in the global alt right. And it could be some of your 'them' might in fact complain about Trump's 'withdrawal plan', but many others would ask how anyone would believe anything said by a president (impeached) who's told over 15,000 lies. And counting. But then most people willing to use any reasoning ability, regardless political beliefs, don't just divide the world into Trump's way or the 'enemies' ' with no options in between.

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I bet my bank balance this happened on the base I just left.

That would be a good bet provided your bank hasn't folded and your left with a bank balance. I'd change banks to a credit union and hold on to your shirt and drawers while you still have them. You have lost that bet as this didn't happen at your former base. Sorry pal.

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