2020-02-21 18:47:471 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
This is the type of news that Donald Trump wants to hear more often instead of the negative information that seems to always find its way to headlines, the information he refers to as "fake news." The United States and Taliban will sign a peace deal at the end of the month if they can keep the violence at bay until then.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. and Taliban will sign a peace deal on February 29 as long as a reduction of violence holds on until then. The Taliban also released a statement confirming their intention to sign a peace deal that day.
This is something Trump has been working on for several months and something that caused tension between him and his advisers. Last summer Trump wanted to have a peace meeting at Camp David and invited representatives from the Taliban and Afghanistan. Former national security adviser John Bolton was against it.
Trump abruptly admitted to the plans for the secret meeting while calling it off. Taliban leaders had admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed a member of the U.S. military. Pompeo explained after the cancellation that the Taliban leaders failed to live up to promises they'd made before the meeting.
Despite the earlier break in the Taliban's commitment, the U.S. is forging ahead with this deal. The reduction in violence is due to begin on Saturday according to Afghanistan's National Security Council and a senior State Department official. Note that the Taliban is being given a few days to continue to be violent and that they aren't being required to achieve zero violence, just a "reduction."
"U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan," said Pompeo on Friday in a statement that referred to the U.S.-Taliban negotiations in the Qatari capital.
"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," added the secretary of state.
The Taliban announced that "both parties will now create a suitable security situation in advance of agreement signing date, extend invitations to senior representatives of numerous countries and organizations to participate in the signing ceremony, make arrangements for the release of prisoners" in a statement released Friday, adding that the parties will prepare for intra-Afghan negotiations.
However, the U.S. military command in Kabul said it doesn't have anything to announce at this point. The Afghan National Security Council's spokesman, Javid Faisal, said that "if things go according to the plan," the reduction in violence will begin Saturday. The senior State Department official confirmed the start date.
The Taliban, the United States, and Afghan government-aligned forces will be required to cease all planned offensive operations nationwide following the weeklong reductions in violence. It's not being called a cease-fire, and U.S. forces will continue counterterrorism operations against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
If the violence is indeed reduced for the week, American and Taliban negotiators will sign a peace deal on February 29. U.S. officials have warned that while the Taliban and Afghan have agreed to these terms, there could be "spoilers" to cancel the deal.
The chief U.S. negotiator, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, admitted to being "cautiously optimistic" about possibly achieving peace but warned of "spoilers," described as those who don't see the possibilities for a peace deal and who would rather continue the conflict.
The Afghan government will enter into its own talks with the Taliban after the U.S.-Taliban peace deal is signed. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that he will build an inclusive negotiating team, but election results announced this week leave Afghan politics quite divided.
Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, his rival, both declared victory following the election results being announced. Abdullah said the results were illegal and that he will set up a parallel government. This could further complicate a negotiation with the Taliban.
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