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AP Report: US, Taliban reach cease fire; says US troop withdrawal over 18 months

Former Taliban fighters line up to handover their Rifles to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound. (Lt. Joe Painter/Department of Defense)
February 14, 2020

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

The U.S. and the Taliban have reached an agreement for seven-day “reduction in violence” and plan further peace talks in the coming weeks.

A senior U.S. official confirmed the news of the momentary cease fire to the Associated Press on Friday. U.S. officials said they hope for a set of all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days.

The new ceasefire effort may stop Taliban roadside bombs and rocket attacks long enough for more detailed peace process to take place.

The U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press was reportedly not authorized to discuss the matter, but suggested the U.S. could formally announce the agreement by the weekend and the cease fire could soon take effect.

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The deal may also allow for the reduction of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, edging the U.S. closer to ending its longest running war, which has persisted since 2001.

A Taliban official familiar with the talks told the Associated Press said the second phase of discussions would be signed into effect on Feb. 29 and the inter-Afghan peace talks would begin on March 10. That Taliban official also suggested the U.S. would begin gradually phasing out troops over the ensuing 18 months.

The initial troop withdrawal may entail a reduction from approximately 12,000 U.S. troops currently in the country to around 8,600.

The news comes just one day after President Donald Trump said U.S. and Taliban officials could have an agreement in place by the end of February.

President Trump has signalled past efforts to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end through peace talks with the Taliban. Past efforts at a deal have been troubled by frequent stops and starts as talks have been interrupted by Taliban attacks.

The Taliban carried out a large scale offensive on the city of Kunduz in August, even as a round of peace talks was under way. Weeks later in September, Trump ended another round of negotiations and declared peace talks “dead” following a Taliban attack that killed a U.S. soldier.

Peace talks appeared to take a back seat as Trump declared he would hit the Taliban harder than ever and U.S. and coalition forces subsequently increased air strikes throughout the country to record levels.

Negotiations with the Taliban did resume near the end of 2019, though those negotiations were again affected by sporadic Taliban attacks.