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Afghan 'violence reduction pact' to begin on Saturday

21 Feb 2020 Al Jazeera

A week-long "reduction in violence" between the Taliban, the US and Afghan security forces will begin at midnight on Friday, officials confirm.

The agreement struck during negotiations between the US and Taliban representatives, if maintained, could secure a peace deal that would lead to a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that upon a successful implementation of this agreement, the US would move to sign a peace deal with the Taliban on February 29.

Earlier, Javid Faisal, spokesperson for the Afghan National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, said the reduction in violence (RIV) would start on Saturday.

A Taliban leader based in Doha also confirmed to Al Jazeera that the parties had agreed to the reduction in violence. The Afghan armed group, which was removed from power in a US-led invasion in 2001, is expected to make a formal announcement later on Friday.

Officials privy to the talks had said last week that an agreement with the Taliban would be followed by negotiations on an intra-Afghan political settlement between the Taliban and an Afghan delegation that would include government officials.

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The Taliban has previously refused to speak directly to the Kabul government, which it denounces as a "US puppet".

Afghan forces will keep up normal military operations against other armed groups, such the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS), during the RIV period, Faisal said, adding that Afghan forces will also retaliate to the smallest violation of the understanding by the Taliban.

"Local government and security officials have been instructed by the president himself on how to follow the regulations agreed upon for the RIV period," he said.

US officials were not immediately available for comment.

US and Taliban negotiators have been meeting in Doha since 2018 even though fighting has raged in Afghanistan and thousands of civilians and combatants have been killed as the rebels have expanded their territorial control.

Original Link: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/pact-taliban-reducing-violence-start-saturday-200221094340829.html

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