US preparing to sign deal with Taliban on Feb 29: Pompeo

New Delhi/Kabul: A week-long “reduction in violence” pact between the Taliban, the United States and Afghan security forces will come into effect from midnight on Friday night, paving the way for the peace deal which is to be signed on February 29.

Officials in Afghanistan confirmed this on Friday. The negotiations between the US and the Taliban that were resumed after four months in January, had been stuck over the disagreement on the definition of “reduction in violence”.

However, 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, according to media reports.

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.

Incidentally, President Donald Trump is visiting India later this week on a two-day trip.

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.

Trump, who is running for re-election later this year, had promised during his first election campaign that he would end America’s wars and bring all American troops back home.

Image courtesy of IANS

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