US, Taliban reach violence reduction pact that could lead to US withdrawal

Reuters Washington, United States Feb 15, 2020, 11.18 AM(IST)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd L) meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, together with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) and Acting Minister of Defense of Afghanistan Asadullah Khalid (R), during the Munich Security conference in Munich Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

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

The United States has reached agreement with the Taliban on a weeklong reduction of violence that could lead to a US 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 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Also read: US, Taliban have negotiated proposal for 7-day reduction in violence: Pentagon chief

The accord if it holds could pave the way for an agreement by the end of the month on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a long-sought objective for US 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.

Also read: US-Taliban breakthrough appears closer as Afghan President Ghani reports progress

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 US military presence that began shortly after the 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda.

US officials have been clear that the 13,000 US 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 US ambassador to Afghanistan.