US, Taliban could sign peace deal in February

Clay Curtis
February 14, 2020

"I think there's a good chance that we'll have a deal".

Mr. Trump claimed he canceled the September deal, which reportedly included a Camp David summit with leaders of the Taliban and the Kabul government, after a terrorist attack claimed the life of a USA service member in Afghanistan. " ... That doesn't mean we'll have [a deal] but we'll know over the next two weeks", he said, though it was unclear if the president was referring to the cease-fire or the larger peace accord.

Mr Trump's comments were the latest indication of significant progress in negotiations that the United States and the Taliban have been holding since December in Qatar.

The U.S. and Taliban "have negotiated a proposal" for a seven-day reduction in violence, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on Thursday, adding he thinks that timeframe is "sufficient" to judge whether the group is serious about peace talks.

"We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence".

Esper declined to discuss further details, noting he was in the process of consulting with USA allies about the proposal and the way forward.

President Donald Trump is committed to downsizing the number of US troops remaining in Afghanistan and establishing peace with the Taliban.

Turkish Forces Gather in the Countryside of Aleppo, Syria
The Syrian state news agency Sana quoted a source at the foreign ministry as saying his "empty statements" were "disconnected from reality".

Despite almost two decades of American military involvement, the Taliban today controls as much Afghan territory as it did during the run-up to the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The demand to sharply reduce violence has been partly why the talks had been deadlocked, according to a Western diplomat in Kabul.

"Because when we train and support the Afghan forces with training, but also with funding, we are helping the Afghans to send a very clear message to Taliban that they will never win on the battlefield", he added.

But days later, Mr Trump said the talks were "dead", after the militant group admitted to killing a United States soldier.

A Western diplomat in Kabul said USA negotiators were working on the idea that the Taliban should agree on a reduction in violence for at least 10 days with no major violation.

The news of a potential agreement to curb violence comes amid continued attacks by the hardline insurgent Taliban that controls about 40% of Afghanistan, according to Afghan defence officials.

In the months since the deal collapsed, there has so far been no let-up in fighting. One Afghan National Army member was also killed in the attack, with six officials wounded. Numerous commanders are unhappy with what they view as their governmental leaders committing into changing USA needs they dread are a snare to weaken them around the battle.

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