Kabul, Feb 22 (IANS) A seven-day “reduction in violence” pact between the Taliban, the US and Afghan security forces came into effect on Saturday, paving the way for the peace deal which is to be signed on February 29.
According to Afghanistan’s National Security Council (NSC), the pact came into force at 12.01 a.m., TOLO News reported.
NSC spokesman Jawed Faisal said that Afghan forces were ready to implement the pact and added: “We hope that the Taliban will reduce violence as per the commitments.”
Sources familiar with the matter have said that under the seven-day pact, the Taliban attacks will be reduced significantly.
The group will not launch attacks in cities, highways or against US bases or the headquarters of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
These terms, however, were yet to be confirmed.
On Friday, both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that they have reached an agreement on the deal and its implementation.
Pompeo said that following the successful implementation of the limited ceasefire, the US would move to sign a peace deal with the Taliban on February 29.
Mujahid said that both the US and Taliban will invite senior representatives to participate in the “signing ceremony” of the peace deal.
The deal, which the Trump administration has been negotiating for long, includes talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani which are to begin on March 10. Mujahid confirmed that they will hold intra-Afghan talks with various political groups.
The Afghan government had stayed away from the US-Taliban negotiations due to strong reservations about the militant group’s religious extremism and violence.
As per the peace treaty, the US has agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners between February 29 and March 10. The Trump administration has also committed itself to withdraw all its forces from the war-torn country over a period of 18 months.
The US and NATO forces launched a ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan 18 years ago after the global Islamist terror group al-Qaeda – sheltered and supported by the Taliban – attacked the US on September 11, 2001.
The US has around 11,000 troops in Afghanistan and has been gradually withdrawing its forces.