Secretary of state Mike Pompeo is soon traveling to sign a historic peace deal with the Taliban, President Donald Trump said in a statement Friday.
Defense secretary Mark Esper will be signing a joint declaration affirming the administration’s partnership with the Afghan government in concert with the Taliban peace deal. The president described the ceremonies as ‘a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home’.
President Trump has been pushing for a peace deal with the Taliban in order to keep his campaign promise of ending the decades-long war in Afghanistan. Under the proposed deal, the US would gradually withdraw troops from Afghanistan in exchange for promises from the Taliban that they will not engage in or fund terror.
The president ceased negotiations with the Taliban in September after the group took credit for a suicide car bombing that killed an American service member. However, talks resumed after the Taliban promised that they would be open to reducing violence, a huge change for a group that was committing violent acts at record highs last year. The US and the Taliban reached a seven-day reduction in violence agreement this past Friday, which was not equivalent to a ceasefire but expected the Taliban to avoid any major forms of violence.
Trump stated, ‘these commitments represent an important step to a lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from al-Qaeda, Isis, and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm. Ultimately it will be up to the people of Afghanistan to work out their future. We, therefore, urge the Afghan people to seize this opportunity for peace and a new future for their country.’
Secretary Pompeo noted that the US would sign a fuller peace agreement ‘if and only if’ the reduction in violence was successful, adding that it would likely be signed ‘on or about February 29’.
Critics have warned that the Taliban may simply resort back to violence or seize control of the Afghan government after the deal is made, but the administration contends that they are clear-eyed about the risks of negotiating with the terror group and are willing to retaliate with military force if necessary.