The United States and the Taliban are preparing for the signing of a peace deal later this month, according to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which would help end America’s longest war.
“U.S. negotiators in Doha (Qatar) have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Pompeo said in a statement on Friday afternoon, Feb. 21, The Washington Post reported.
“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.”
Once the agreement is signed, Pompeo said, “Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.”
The Taliban also confirmed their plan to sign a peace deal on that day, saying, “Both parties will now create a suitable security situation in advance of [the agreement’s] signing date.”
In a statement released to the media on Friday, the Taliban also said the two sides will “make arrangements for the release of prisoners” and prepare for intra-Afghan negotiations.
The two sides have agreed to sign the peace deal provided that a weeklong reduction in violence across Afghanistan holds. Accordingly, the Taliban, the United States, and Afghan government-aligned forces are required to largely cease all planned offensive operations nationwide.
Under a draft agreement in September, the United States would withdraw thousands of its troops, but could still maintain a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban would begin talks with the Afghan government and vow not to harbor terrorist groups with aim to attack the West.
But in their statement on Friday, the Taliban said the new deal would lead to “the withdrawal of all foreign forces … so that our people can live a peaceful and prosperous life under the shade of an Islamic system.”
According to Daily Caller, peace talks between Pompeo and Taliban leaders have improved in recent weeks.
In a tweet on Friday, Pompeo wrote, “After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan. This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity.”