The United States and the Taliban have reached a landmark agreement that will significantly reduce violence in Afghanistan and pave the way for the two sides to negotiate a peace deal that could bring the 18-year war in the country to a final end, the State Department announced on Friday.
"The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in extensive talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, reduce United States and Allied Forces presence, and ensure that no terrorist group ever uses Afghan soil to threaten the United States or our allies," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said early Friday in a statement.
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The agreement, being referred to officially as a "reduction in violence" accord, will pave the way for the Trump administration and the Taliban to engage in peace talks that could see most American forces finally exit the country. The first prong of this agreement will go into effect later tonight, U.S. officials said.
"In recent weeks, in consultation with the Government of National Unity, 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.
"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," according to the secretary of state. "Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan. The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree on the way forward."
"Challenges remain, but the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity," Pompeo said. "The United States calls on all Afghans to seize this moment."
While peace talks planned with the Taliban broke down last year, the Trump administration has been working behind the scenes for months to hash out the reduction in violence agreement.
Rumors that this pact was close to a lock first began to circulate last week. If it sticks, it could enable Trump to make good on his promise to end the war in Afghanistan and bring American troops home.