Washington, Feb 22 (IANS) The US and Taliban are expected to sign an agreement on February 29, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said in a statement.
“In recent weeks, in consultation with the Government of National Unity, US negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” the statement said on Friday.
“Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29.”
According to Efe news, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the deal saying it would be “a critical test of the Taliban’s willingness and ability to reduce violence, and contribute to peace in good faith.”
“I welcome today’s announcement that an understanding has been reached on a significant reduction of violence across Afghanistan. This could pave the way for a sustainable peace and ensure that the country is never again a safe haven for terrorists,” the NATO secretary-general tweeted.
The Afghan government confirmed the agreement would be signed in the presence of international observers.
Both parties will now “make arrangements for the release of prisoners, structure a path for intra-Afghan negotiations with various political parties of the country and finally lay the groundwork for peace across the country with the withdrawal of all foreign forces and not allowing the land of Afghanistan to be used against security of others so that our people can live a peaceful and prosperous life under the shade of an Islamic system.”
According to the US State Department, negotiations “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 sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree in the way forward,” the statement said adding that although challenges will remain, “the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity.”
Pompeo’s announcement comes days after Secretary of Defence Mark Esper met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the Munich Security Conference.
Ghani shared his doubts about the Taliban’s intentions about the peace deal, although he said it was important to put it to the test.
Another key point is the seven-day truce the Islamist group has agreed to, which Deputy spokesman for the Office of National Security Council Kabir Wasiq confirmed to EFE.
According to the Afghan Interior Ministry during the ceasefire, Taliban will “significantly” reduce their attacks and will not carry out suicide attacks, bombings or firing of rockets against Afghan security forces.
If Taliban fighters violate their pledge, Afghan security forces will defend and retaliate, the Interior Ministry added.
The peace deal is expected to lead to the withdrawal of around 5,000 US troops in the first 135 days after the signing ceremony.
The Taliban have said the agreement will also enable the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners from the Afghan government’s jails and, in return, the group will release 1,000 Afghan soldiers from several detention centres.