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Friday, 21 February 2020

BREAKING: Trump Admin, Taliban Announce Peace Deal: ‘Significant’ Reduction In Violence, Release of Prisoners

In a pair of statements Friday, the Trump administration and Afghanistan’s Taliban announced their agreement to sign a peace deal on Feb. 29 conditioned on a week-long reduction in violence across the country.
The deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday, will result in “a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan.” In a statement released Friday, the Taliban said that both parties will work to “create a suitable security situation” in advance of the deal and “make arrangements for the release of prisoners.”
Pompeo announced the deal on social media Friday morning. “After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” he said. “This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity.”
“The violence reduction, the decisive condition of the possible peace deal, is set to begin early Saturday — just after midnight, according to Afghanistan’s National Security Council and a senior State Department official,” The Washington Post reports.
“U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Pompeo said in a statement reported by the Post. “Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29.”
The Post reports that the Taliban confirmed the deal in a statement released to the media Friday, stating that “both parties will now create a suitable security situation in advance of agreement signing date, extend invitations to senior representatives of numerous countries and organizations to participate in the signing ceremony, make arrangements for the release of prisoners” and prepare for inter-Afghan negotiations.
“The week-long reduction in violence will require the Taliban, the United States and Afghan government-aligned forces to largely cease all planned offensive operations nationwide,” the Post reports. “The period is not being called a cease-fire, and U.S. forces will continue to carry out counterterrorism operations against groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In a report on the potential “reduction in violence” deal earlier this week, the Post quoted White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who told the Atlantic Council Tuesday that he did not believe that a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was “imminent.”
“Some good news could be forthcoming. There will have to be reduction in violence and meaningful inter-Afghan talks,” said O’Brien. Asked if troops would be pulled out of the country, he said, :I don’t think there’s any imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
When the Post reached out to the U.S. Military about the announcement of the deal Friday, a spokesperson said they have nothing yet to report.
President Trump has long sought to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the peace talks were undermined in September when a Taliban attack resulted in the death of a U.S. soldier, prompting Trump to declare the talks “dead” for the time being. Despite the temporary pause in talks, Pompeo expressed hope that a deal could still be reached.
The Pentagon stressed at the time that U.S. military is committed to maintaining the “appropriate level” of presence in the region to carry out its counterterrorism operation. “The number of troops that we will have will always be the appropriate level that we need to provide security there,” said spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. “We’re going to focus on the counterterrorism mission, and we’re going to focus on the reason we got into Afghanistan in the first place, and that is to prevent terrorist operations or individuals from using Afghanistan as a base from which to operate against the homeland.”

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