Afghanistan began this Friday at midnight a truce that should last in principle a week, after which the United States and the Taliban plan to sign, on February 29, a historic agreement that would pave the way to end the longest war in which they have Americans have been involved. Although it is known as “violence reduction”, the truce, if fulfilled, would mark an important turn in the conflict and paves the way for the withdrawal of US troops after more than 18 years in the country, in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgents.
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as the Taliban issued statements stating that they had agreed to sign a pact on February 29 in Doha, after a week of partial truce. “After this commitment (of violence reduction) is successfully implemented, the signing of the agreement between the United States and the Taliban is expected,” Pompeo said in a statement released after a visit to Saudi Arabia, and noted that negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government “would start shortly after.”
“Afghan security forces will remain in a state of active defense during the week,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a televised speech that said the truce started at midnight from Friday to Saturday (19:30 GMT).
For his part, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, expressed his satisfaction with the agreement in a statement and said he hoped that it would help “achieve lasting peace” and “ensure that the country is never a safe haven for terrorists ». Russia also praised the agreement, which it called an “important event” for peace.
A year of negotiations
The United States has been negotiating with the Taliban for over a year to reach an agreement to withdraw its troops in exchange for guarantees for the Taliban and the promise of insurgents participating in peace talks with the Afghan executive.
A decrease in violence could demonstrate that the Taliban are capable of controlling their forces and that they act in good faith in order to sign an agreement, which would allow the withdrawal of half of the 12,000 to 13,000 military personnel that the United States has deployed in Afghanistan.
In a statement, the Taliban said both sides “would create an adequate security situation” before an eventual agreement is signed. A Taliban source in Pakistan said that if an agreement is signed on February 29, negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, necessary to reach a broader peace pact, would begin on March 10.
In Kandahar (south), seen as a fief of the Taliban, an insurgent told AFP that he had been ordered to implement a ceasefire. However, another Taliban commander, also in Kandahar, Hafiz Saeed Hedayat, said he had only been ordered to stop attacking major cities and highways. “This may mean that violence will continue in the districts,” Hedayat said.
The United States and the Taliban were close to reaching an agreement before, but US President Donald Trump backed out late in September as insurgents did not abandon violence.
In any case, the truce will not be without risks, warn analysts, who predict that the establishment of peace in Afghanistan will be extremely delicate and that a peace pact can jump through the air at all times.
Some even warn that both sides could take advantage of the truce to reconfigure forces for future clashes.