At 12:00 midnight (Afghan time) on Friday, Feb. 21 (the morning of Saturday, Feb. 22), a reduction in violence plan kicked off that is intended to last for seven days. Upon its successful completion, according to statements by the US and Taliban, a peace deal negotiated between the two sides over the past 18 months in Doha, will be signed. The expectation is that this signed agreement will lead to intra-Aghan talks between the Taliban on one side, and a delegation representing the Afghan republic's government and political and civil establishment, on the other.
Following a build-up of recent statements, on Friday morning Afghanistan's National Security Council (NSC) confirmed that the seven-day period of a reduction in violence – which the US and the Taliban have agreed as a precondition to signing a peace deal – would begin sharply at 12 midnight.
The NSC spokesman Jawed Faisal said that Afghan forces are ready to implement the reduction in violence plan.
He added: “We hope that the Taliban will reduce violence as per the commitments.”
Later in the day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement announcing the deal:
“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.
The Taliban also released statements confirming the agreement.
Over the course of the day, President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai and others made statements about the reduction in violence, and NATO and the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan also welcomed the announcement.
And acting Minister of Interior Massoud Andarabi stated that the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) are on "red alert" for the reduction in violence plan.
“The country’s security and defense forces are on red alert. All necessary guidelines have been issued to them (ANDSF) about honoring the reduction in violence period across Afghanistan. At the same time, there are full preparations to defend the Afghan people including the civilians and Afghanistan’s territory. In case the Taliban do not abide by their commitments during this period, the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will act resolutely,” said Andarabi.
Andarabi meanwhile pledged responsive action if the Taliban failed to respect the reduction in violence plan.
“If the Taliban do not abide by their commitments during this period (reduction in violence period), the Afghan security forces and the Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan will retaliate against the Taliban,” Andarabi told TOLOnews on Friday.
Sources familiar with the matter have said that under the seven-day reduction in violence, the Taliban attacks will be reduced significantly: the group will not launch attacks in cities, highways or against US bases or the headquarters of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). These terms, however, have yet to be confirmed.