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US and Taliban ‘reach Afghan truce agreement’

The final details were hammered out in Doha, Qatar.

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FILE – In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, a man waves an Afghan flag during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan official Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, said multiple U.S. military deaths have been reported in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province after an insider attack by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

FILE – In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, a man waves an Afghan flag during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan official Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, said multiple U.S. military deaths have been reported in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province after an insider attack by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

FILE – In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, a man waves an Afghan flag during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan official Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, said multiple U.S. military deaths have been reported in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province after an insider attack by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

The US and the Taliban have reached a truce agreement that will take effect “very soon” and could lead to withdrawals of American troops from Afghanistan, according to a senior US official.

The official said the agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” to be followed by the start of all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days is “very specific” and covers the entire country including Afghan forces.

The developments come as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Germany. They spoke on the sidelines of an international security forum in Munich.

Mike Pompeo with Ashraf Ghani
Mike Pompeo with Ashraf Ghani (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AP)

A truce had been widely anticipated, and President Donald Trump has agreed in principle to the deal, which could lead to the start of significant troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, according to US officials.

The final details were hammered out in recent days by US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar.

Mr Khalilzad was in Munich and attended Mr Pompeo and Mr Esper’s meeting as did General Scott Miller, the commander of the US-led international force in Afghanistan.

People familiar with the plan say it calls for the successful conclusion of the week-long truce to be followed within 10 days by the start of all-Afghan negotiations to set the road map for the country’s political future.

US officials have brushed aside claims that a Taliban ultimatum forced their hand, and they noted that, despite Mr Trump’s campaign pledge to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Republican president has ruled out previous deals that appeared close in response to attacks on US forces.

PA Media