A week-long ceasefire period in Afghanistan will begin on February 22, and if successful, the U.S. and Taliban will sign a peace deal on February 29.
“U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Friday.
The ceasefire will consist of halted offensive operations from the Taliban, Afghan government, and the U.S, although the U.S. will continue its counter-terror efforts against ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the region.
“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,” ceasefire Pompeo’s statement added.
.@SecPompeo announced that the U.S. reached an understanding with the Taliban on a significant, nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan that will help to move our #AfghanPeaceProcess forward. This will advance progress toward a political settlement in #Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/PdsQYdooT1
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) February 21, 2020
After the deal is signed, the Taliban and the Afghanistan government will begin to hold negotiations for an eventual permanent ceasefire.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stated he would establish a negotiations team for such talks.
“The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree on the way forward,” Pompeo said.
Afghan National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told The Washington Post that “if things go according to the plan,” the region will see reduced violence with the ceasefire period beginning Saturday.
“Both parties will now create a suitable security situation in advance of agreement signing date, extend invitations to senior representatives of numerous countries and organizations to participate in the signing ceremony, make arrangements for the release of prisoners,” the Taliban said in a statement reported by The Washington Post on Friday.
Last week, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the peace deal a “conditions-based” process that will require ongoing evaluation to maintain.
Esper has previously indicated that a successful peace deal could include the withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Afghanistan “over time” to 8,600, down from the current 12,000, the Associated Press reported.