WASHINGTON – The United States and the Taliban agreed on Friday to reduce violence for seven days as a prelude to possible peace pact that would see US troops leave Afghanistan after more than 18 years, a senior State Department official said.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not say when the trial period was scheduled to begin.
While not a fully-fledged truce, the agreement is “very specific” in stating that roadside bombs, suicide bombings and rocket attacks will be considered violations, the official said.
“Should the Talibs implement what they’ve committed to doing, we’ll go forward with the agreement,” the senior official said.
The scaling-back of hostilities will also apply to Afghan government forces.
A successful de-escalation would open the door to making rapid progress in ongoing peace talks between Washington and the Taliban, according to the official.
Arrangements for the seven-day period include the establishment of hotlines linking US commanders to their Afghan government and Taliban counterparts to address problems or deal with actions by “spoilers” who want to keep the conflict going, the State Department official said.
“That’s why this channel is so important, that if we see something, we should be able to determine, and if we can’t determine, we raise questions,” the official added.
The sides appeared to be on the verge of a broader peace deal last September when US President Donald Trump called an abrupt halt to the process after an American was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul.
Prior to that incident, Trump had been planning to receive Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington, an idea that spurred controversy in the US.
An eventual US withdrawal from Afghanistan would take place “in phases” and be conditioned on the Taliban’s fulfilling its obligations,” the official said Friday.
Besides taking part in national peace talks, the Taliban would have to deny terrorists safe haven in Afghanistan, the official said, defining that to mean: “no hosting, no presence, no training, no recruitment, no fundraising.”
More than 2,300 US military personnel have lost their lives in America’s longest war.
“Having a military presence in Afghanistan is not an end in itself for the United States,” the State Department official said, adding that whether or not such a presence is necessary will depend on the actions of the Taliban.