US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that a new truce with the Taliban is “an important step” after Afghanistan’s National Security Council (NSC) confirmed that a reduction in violence throughout the country will start at midnight on Friday.
Jawed Faisal, the NSC’s spokesperson, said that the violence reduction “begins on Saturday at 12am,” adding that “we hope that the Taliban will reduce violence as per the commitments.”
The US and the Taliban have agreed to a seven-day reduction in violence ahead of signing a peace deal, which will pave the way to end America’s longest war in history – and almost two decades of US forces in Afghanistan.
“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,” Mr Pompeo said in a post on social media.
While a vague term, the agreement means that the Taliban will not launch attacks in cities, on highways or against US bases, as well as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The US will monitor developments throughout the next seven days.
Afghanistan’s capital Kabul remained quiet after today’s announcement.
President Donald Trump with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen Mark Milley addresses members of the military during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
If successful, the signing of the peace deal will see the beginning of US troop withdrawal. It will also trigger direct talks between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government in an effort to secure lasting peace.
On Tuesday, President Ashraf Ghani was confirmed for another five-year term, although his election came amid challenges from his main rival Dr Abdullah Abdullah, who also claimed victory.
While a full ceasefire for the week couldn’t be secured, all parties agreed to a significant reduction in fighting.
The US stated that it has enough surveillance to monitor the Taliban’s adherence to the agreement.
While any reduction in violence is a crucial step to the signing of a US-Taliban peace deal, it is the least important part of the agreement, states Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and long-term Afghanistan expert.
“The intra-Afghan talks remain the hard part,” he said. “Neither the Taliban nor the government and legitimate opposition have a realistic agenda for those talks.