US prepares to sign withdrawal deal with Afghan Taliban next week

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US prepares to sign withdrawal deal with Afghan Taliban next week

KABUL: The US and the Taliban are set to sign a historic agreement that would pave the way to ending America’s longest war, the bitter foes announced Friday, hours after Kabul said a week-long partial truce across Afghanistan would kick off this weekend.
If that so-called “reduction in violence” holds, it would mark a major turning point in the gruelling conflict and set the conditions for a deal that could, ultimately, pull US troops out after more than 18 years and launch Afghanistan into an uncertain future.
Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban issued statements saying they had agreed to sign the accord on February 29 in Doha, following the one-week partial truce.
“Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the US-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward,” Pompeo said, adding negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government would “start soon thereafter”.
Afghanistan’s National Security Council spokesman Javed Faisal and Taliban sources earlier said the “reduction in violence” between US, Taliban and Afghan security forces would begin Saturday.
The United States has been in talks with the Taliban for more than a year to secure a deal in which it would pull out thousands of troops in return for Taliban security guarantees and a promise to hold peace talks with the government in Kabul.
A reduction in violence would show the Taliban can control their forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of any signing, which would see the Pentagon withdraw about half of the 12,000-13,000 troops currently in Afghanistan.
In a statement, the Taliban said warring parties would “create a suitable security situation” ahead of a deal signing.
One Taliban source in Pakistan said that if an agreement is signed on February 29, talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, needed to cement a broader peace deal, are slated to start March 10.

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