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A US soldier investigates the scene of a suicide attack on the Afghan border with Pakistan A US soldier investigates the scene of a suicide attack on the Afghan border with Pakistan  (AFP or licensors)

US and Taliban agree step on road to Afghan peace

The US and the Taliban announce they will sign an agreement on 29 February following a week of violence reduction in Afghanistan.

By Vatican News

The U.S. Secretary of State and Taliban representatives announced on Friday that following a one-week scale-down in violence they will sign an agreement that could be the first step on the road to peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

The reduced violence period, to be observed by Afghan, international and Taliban forces, begins on Friday at midnight.

According to Reuters news agency, an Afghan official and Taliban leaders said lengthy negotiations between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the United States of America, resulted in both parties agreeing to sign the finalised accord in the presence of international observers.

The agreement could represent a chance for peace after 18 years of war and a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan that dates back to 2001.

However, it comes in the wake of a series of past attempts to negotiate peace agreements that have so far scuttled by Taliban attacks on international forces in the region.

A Taliban spokesman said the agreement also foresees arrangements for the release of prisoners.

Separately, the US secretary of State said his country and the Taliban have been engaged in talks to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan and to reduce the U.S. presence in the region.

The US president, who has vowed to stop "endless wars" as he seeks re-election in November, has long sought to withdraw U.S. 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.

Although negotiators have been trying to negotiate an accord since 2018, fighting has continued to rage in Afghanistan where thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed as the insurgents have expanded territory under their control.

The present agreement is seen as very hopeful as the Taliban have previously refused to speak directly to the Kabul government.

 

21 February 2020, 17:32