President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, right, meets with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Munich, Germany, on February 15, 2020. (Afghan Presidency Press Office Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)
ISLAMABAD (Kyodo) — A seven-day “reduction in violence” pact that the United States and Afghanistan’s Taliban have agreed to as a precondition to signing a peace deal begins at midnight local time, Afghan authorities said Friday.
The reduction in violence, which amounts to a de facto ceasefire, reportedly covers the entire country, including Afghan government forces.
If implemented, the two sides are expected to sign a peace agreement at the end of the month that would lead to a reduction in U.S. force levels. The development marks a major milestone toward the end of the longest war in U.S. history.
Attention is focused on whether the Taliban’s leadership is capable of stopping its members from carrying out attacks for seven consecutive days.
The militant group has expressed its intention to engage in talks with the Afghan government after the peace agreement is signed.
However, there are several factions in the Taliban, and it is unclear whether orders from its leadership will be followed down the ranks.
If Taliban terrorism or attacks are confirmed during the period, fighting with the government may reignite, further deteriorating security.
The U.S.-Taliban negotiations have continued on-and-off since October 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump has raised hopes for an agreement with the Taliban, saying in an interview last week that there is a “good chance that we’ll have a deal,” according to U.S. media.
The U.S. and Afghan governments have been engaged in combat with the Taliban insurgency, even after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban regime through the 2001 military invasion in Afghanistan.