‘Reduction in Violence’ Working in Afghanistan, Pompeo Says

The US, Taliban are halfway through a weeklong semi-truce that could unlock door to US troop withdrawal
February 26, 2020 Updated: February 27, 2020

The semi-truce in Afghanistan that could unlock the door to a U.S. troop withdrawal and long-term peace is still holding, according to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“In 19 years of war, this is the first weeklong break in violence by all sides, if we’re successful in achieving it,” he told reporters on Feb. 25, about halfway through the historic weeklong “reduction in violence.”

“So far, [it’s] is working. It’s imperfect, but it’s working.”

The semi-truce between the Taliban, United States, and Afghan forces began on Feb. 22. If it holds for the entire week, the United States and the Taliban are expected to sign a deal over the weekend that includes what Pompeo described as a “conditions-based and phased troop withdrawal.”

“If—and only if—it’s successful, we will sign the U.S.–Taliban agreement coordinated with the Government of National Unity on or about Feb. 29,” Pompeo said. The agreement also includes the start of negotiations between Afghans.

“These negotiations, if they take place, will be the first time that Afghans representing all sides of the conflict will sit down together and begin the hard work of reconciliation.

“We want to assist and provide structures so that the Afghans can ultimately get an outcome that is led by Afghanis, driven by Afghanis, and is a long-term solution that all of the people of Afghanistan can live with.”

The Taliban have agreed to not attack major military installations, provincial capitals, and major cities during the current weeklong agreement. However, logistics convoys and rural areas didn’t come under the agreement.

Only a “handful” of attacks have occurred since the detente began, according to the Military Times, which said attacks have been significantly reduced compared to usual levels.

“We’re seeing what we would call a downward trend in violence, which is great for the Afghan people,” said U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller. “It’s great for the country of Afghanistan.”

Taliban attacks have dwindled to about 15 a day from roughly 75 since the truce began on Feb. 22, according to AFP, citing an anonymous Afghan security source.

The United States has continued to target the ISIS terror group in Afghanistan during the week, with the Pentagon announcing on Feb. 25 it had conducted two airstrikes that killed four ISIS terrorists.

Pompeo said the negotiations reflected three principles that underpin President Donald Trump’s foreign policy: “realism, restraint, and respect.”

“All of these apply to Afghanistan and what we’re doing there. It’s a place where our brave soldiers, diplomats, allies, and Afghan counterparts have served and sacrificed now for nearly two decades,” Pompeo said, adding that the United States had to be realistic about the costs of an outright military triumph in Afghanistan.

“We’re proud of our gains, but our generals have determined that this war is unlikely to be won militarily without tremendous additional resources,” he said.

“All sides are tired of fighting. We’ve arrived at a historic opportunity for peace. It won’t be easy to obtain; we should seize the moment.”

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