US and Taliban agree to a seven-day truce as a first step towards peace; however, conflict between Afghan leaders threatens the deal. The death toll from the Afghan war has topped 150,000 since it started in 2001.
Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Afghanistan’s National Security Council announced a partial, seven-day truce with the Taliban starting at midnight local time. Three senior Taliban officials confirmed the deal to Reuters.
The truce is a precondition for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and any peace agreement between the parties.
The Taliban had previously refused to speak directly to the Kabul government, which they view as a US puppet.
For seven days, the extremist group will "reduce" its violence, avoid attacks against human settlements, the country’s main roads as well as US, international and Afghan bases.
The US military, its allies and Afghan forces will engage not the Taliban, except in self-defence.
The truce does not apply to other jihadi groups present in Afghanistan; especially the Islamic State group or the Pakistani Taliban.
The Afghan government has denied however another Taliban announcement that peace talks would be preceded by a prisoners’ exchange.
The latest development comes after the failure last September of a first round of talks between the US and the Taliban, which had started in Qatar in 2018.
The peace process should end with the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. In return, the US wants the Taliban to cut ties with other jihadi groups, lay down their arms and participate in the country’s political life.
The truce is however under threat from the unstable political situation that followed the confirmation of President Ashraf Ghani's victory in last year’s presidential election. His main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has rejected the election outcome, pledging to set up his own government.
The Taliban, a mostly ethnic Pashtun group based in the south of the country, are active in almost every Afghan province.
The US and Northern Alliance forces (mostly Tajiks and Uzbeks) toppled the Taliban regime between the end of 2001 and early 2002, shortly after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Under the Taliban, al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the attacks against the US found refuge in Afghanistan.
According to the latest figures, the war has resulted in 157,000 deaths, including 43,000 civilians. The US, which currently has 13,000 troops in the country backed by 17,000 NATO and other troops, has suffered 2,200 casualties.
With the US presidential election just around the corner, US President Donald Trump wants to bring US soldiers home, which is popular with his electoral base.