Week-long Afghanistan ‘reduction in violence’ starts on Saturday: Afghan official

A week-long “reduction in violence” between the Taliban, the United States and Afghan security forces will commence shortly, an official said on Friday, ahead of the signing of a possible deal between Washington and the insurgents.

“The reduction in violence will start from February 22 and will last for one week,” Afghanistan’s National Security Council spokesman Javed Faisal told AFP.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to requests for comment and US forces declined to comment.

If the partial truce goes ahead, it would mark a historic step in more than 18 years of gruelling conflict in Afghanistan and would pave the way for a deal that could, ultimately, see the war end.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The US has for more than a year been in talks with the Taliban for a deal in which it would pull out thousands of troops in return for a set of Taliban security guarantees and commitments.

A reduction in violence would show the Taliban can control their forces and demonstrate good faith ahead of the deal, which would see US withdraw about half of the 12,000-13,000 troops currently in Afghanistan.

The US and the Taliban have been tantalisingly close to a deal before, only to see President Donald Trump nix it in September of last year at the 11th hour amid continued insurgent violence.

Afghan officials have said the US-Taliban deal could be signed on Feb 29 in Doha, assuming the planned lull in violence goes ahead.

But any truce comes fraught with danger and analysts warn the attempt to stem Afghanistan’s bloodshed is fraught with complications and could fail at any time. Or, worse still, they say warring parties could exploit a lull to reconfigure their forces and secure a battlefield advantage.