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Major breakthrough in ending 18 years of US military presence in Afghanistan

The deal was struck on Friday after protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha

Saturday February 15, 2020 11:17 AM, IANS

US Taliban Truce

[Representatives of the Taliban attend international talks on Afghanistan in No 2018. (File Photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)]

Munich: The US and the Taliban have agreed on a week-long reduction of violence that could pave the way for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, a senior official said.

The deal was struck on Friday after protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha and was announced after a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, reports Xinhua news agency.

The senior US administration official told the media here on Friday that the violence reduction pact was very "specific" and covered the entire country, including Afghan government forces.

He also cautioned that US troop reductions will be conditioned on the Taliban's meeting commitments.

The truce marks a milestone in efforts to end the 18 years of US military presence in Afghanistan, and could pave the way for an agreement by the end of this month on the withdrawal.

The peace agreement, according to the US official, would call for a nationwide ceasefire; negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban; and a commitment from the Taliban not to harbour terrorist groups, while setting a timetable for the troops withdrawal.

"Should the Taliban implement what they've committed to doing, we will move forward with the agreement," the official said, adding that the seven-day period is yet to begin and will take effect soon.

Friday's development comes after Ghani on Tuesday said that the Taliban had proposed a reduction of violence to facilitate an agreement with the US after negotiations had stalled for several months.

The proposal was one of the main demands of US negotiators and the government in Kabul.

Afghanistan has been gripped by a bloody war since in 2001 when a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime, which since then has fought to regain control of the country, where it currently dominates large territories.

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