US says preparing to sign deal with Taliban on February 29

US says preparing to sign deal with Taliban on February 29

KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, February 21

The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on February 29 at the end of a week-long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.

The agreement could represent a chance for peace after 18 years of war and a US troop presence that dates back to 2001, as well as boosting US President Donald Trump’s hopes of pulling US forces out of Afghanistan.

However, past attempts at negotiating peace agreements have been scuttled by Taliban attacks on international forces.

The reduced violence period, to be observed by Afghan, international and Taliban forces, will begin at midnight (1930 GMT), an Afghan official and Taliban leaders said.

“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,” a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

Both sides would also make arrangements for the release of prisoners, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Separately, Pompeo said in a statement that the United States and the Taliban have been engaged in talks to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan and to reduce the US presence in the region.

The agreement will be signed upon the successful implementation of an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence, Pompeo added.

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, a senior State Department official told Reuters.

Trump, who has vowed to stop “endless wars” as he seeks re-election in November, has long sought to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.

NATO, which currently has 16,000 troops in Afghanistan, welcomed Friday’s announcement, calling the reduced violence period a critical test of the Taliban’s willingness to contribute to peace.

The period could pave the way for sustainable peace and negotiations among Afghans, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

US and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Doha since 2018 even though fighting has raged in Afghanistan and thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed as the insurgents have expanded territory under their control.

“Based on the plan, the reduction in violence (RIV) will start between the Taliban and international and Afghan security forces for one week,” Javid Faisal, spokesperson for the Afghan National Security Advisor, told Reuters.

“We hope it is extended for a longer time and opens the way for a ceasefire and intra-Afghan talks,” he added.

The Taliban have previously refused to speak directly to the Kabul government, which they denounce as a US puppet.

Three senior Taliban leaders—two in Doha and one in Afghanistan—also confirmed to Reuters that a seven-day reduction of violence period would start Friday night.  All three spoke on condition of anonymity.

Not a ‘ceasefire’

One Taliban leader based in Doha told Reuters that the period could not be called a “ceasefire”.

“Every party has the right of self-defence but there would no attacks on each other’s positions in these seven days,” the Taliban leader said. “It is to create a security environment in Afghanistan and can be extended if things go well after signing of a peace accord with the US."

Afghan forces will keep up normal military operations against other groups such as Islamic State, during the RIV period, Afghan spokesman Faisal said.

He added that Afghan forces will also retaliate against the smallest violation of the understanding by the Taliban.

“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.

Afghan government role

Officials privy to the talks had said last week that an agreement with the Taliban would be followed by negotiations on an intra-Afghan political settlement between the Taliban and an Afghan delegation that would include government officials.

Members of the Afghan delegation are yet to be announced.

Reaching a consensus on members could pose a challenge with fresh political uncertainty in Afghanistan after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was declared last week as the winner of a disputed 2019 presidential election.

His political rivals, whose representatives expect to be included in the intra-Afghan talks, rejected the election result and announced that they would form their own government. Reuters

 

Top Stories

Trying to identify coronavirus hotspots across India: Health ministry

Trying to identify coronavirus hotspots across India: Health ministry

By and large effective implementation of lockdown, claims go...

Mann Ki Baat: Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ for tough decisions taken to fight coronavirus

Mann Ki Baat: Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ for tough decisions taken to fight coronavirus

PM reiterates need for social distancing, urges people not t...

Kashmir's second death from coronavirus confounds doctors; cases surge to 38

Kashmir's second death from coronavirus confounds doctors; cases surge to 38

Victim had no travel history; authorities appeal for calm

As coronavirus cases spike in Kashmir, doctors fear valley has its own ‘Wuhan’

As coronavirus cases spike in Kashmir, doctors fear valley has its own ‘Wuhan’

'Situation not looking good, infection might peak soon'

LIVE: Kashmir, Gujarat report deaths; cases inch closer to 1,000

LIVE: Kashmir, Gujarat report deaths; cases inch closer to 1,000

Maharashtra says woman who died on Saturday coronavirus posi...

Cities

View All

Now, farmers can sell produce daily at vegetable market

Earlier, they were allowed to sell their produce twice a wee...

Rain leaves farmers worried

Growers fear curfew will lead to delay in harvesting of whea...

Schools announce results online

Plan to begin with e-lessons from upcoming session

Covid testing at Faridkot govt medical college soon

Doctors, technicians successfully complete VRDL lab training

Poor in villages still struggling to get a square meal

Good Samaritans lend help | Lundewala gurdwara mgmt open don...

Chandigarh heaves a sigh of relief

Shops open 10 am to 6 pm; residents responsibly maintain soc...