Following statements by NATO and Pakistan, Afghan political leaders, including president Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai separately took to the stage to welcome the announcement by the US and Taliban of the start of the reduction in violence plan ( at 12:00 midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning), which will hopefully lead to a signed peace deal on February 29.
On Friday evening, Ghani in a televised address to the Afghan people welcomed the move by the US and the Taliban to initiate a week-long reduction in violence plan, but he cautioned that the Afghan security forces will reserve the right to defend the nation if needed.
“The move by the Taliban to reduce violence to a significant level is an important step towards reaching a ceasefire and restoring sustainable peace. We have to act very cautiously to implement the reduction in violence plan, which starts at midnight," said Ghani.
"Afghan forces will continue their operations against Daesh, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the country during the reduction in violence period, but Afghan forces will be ready to defend the people and their own lives if needed,” said Ghani.
Ghani said that Afghan forces will not violate the reduction in violence plan.
“As supreme commander of the armed forces of the country, I want to assure you that our security and defense forces will completely honor the reduction in violence plan," said Ghani.
“The next steps in the peace process are related to our assessments and outcomes from the reduction in violence week which will clarify our future steps. It is important to mention that the peace process must move forward under the leadership and ownership of the Afghan government,” added Ghani.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Twitter welcomed the reduction in violence plan:
" I welcome today's announcement by H.E. @SecPompeo regarding the signing of a U.S.-Taliban agreement on Feb. 29, upon a successful implementation of a "significant & nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan." Afghans see this as a necessary steppingstone toward intra-Afghan negotiations, a permanent ceasefire and a durable settlement acceptable to our citizens. As a responsible side, we will do our utmost to facilitate, cooperate and justly resolve all outstanding issues to build consensus that engages Afghans in peace making."
Former president Hamid Karzai on Twitter also welcomed the reduction in violence plan:
“The announcement of the date for the signing of the peace agreement between the United States and the...Taliban is good news. I hope intra-Afghan talks will start soon for lasting peace in our beloved country." Karzai tweeted.
The statements come on the heels of an announcement from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier on Friday which said that the deal between the United States and the Taliban – about which the two sides have agreed after more than 10 rounds of talks with chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad – will be signed on February 29.
“The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in extensive talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, reduce United States and Allied Forces presence, and ensure that no terrorist group ever uses Afghan soil to threaten the United States or our allies,” Pompeo said in the statement.