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Taliban orders halt to attacks in Afghanistan ahead of US agreement

Taliban orders halt to attacks in Afghanistan ahead of US agreement

In the run-up to the signing of a historic deal, the Taliban, US and Afghan forces agreed to a partial week-long truce AFP/STR

KABUL: The Taliban ordered all its fighters "to refrain from any kind of attack" on Saturday (Feb 29) ahead of the signing of an agreement with the US diplomats aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan. 

The agreement will set the timeline for the withdrawal of American troops who have been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 years.

"Today all the Taliban fighters are ordered to refrain from any kind of attack ... for the happiness of the nation," Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban told Reuters.

"The biggest thing is that we hope the US remain committed to their promises during the negotiation and peace deal," he said, adding that foreign forces' aircraft were flying over Taliban territory which was "irritating and provocative".

Saturday is a "monumental day for Afghanistan", the United States embassy in Kabul said on Twitter, just hours before the signing of the pact.

"It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan."

President Donald Trump urged the Afghan people to embrace the chance for a new future, saying the deal held out the possibility of ending the 18-year conflict.

"If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home," he said on the eve of the event.

A six-member delegation of junior ministers and a senior security official will hold preliminary talks with some Taliban leaders in Qatar's capital, Doha, two senior government officials in Kabul said, adding that the meeting was a crucial confidence-building mechanism between the warring sides.

The US-Taliban agreement, if inked on Saturday, would begin a phased withdrawal of American and coalition forces and would also require the Taliban to initiate a formal dialogue with the Afghan government and other political and civil society groups on a permanent nationwide ceasefire and power-sharing in post-war Afghanistan.

The Taliban now hold sway over half the country, and are at their most powerful since the US invasion in 2001

Senior Taliban commanders in Doha and Afghanistan said once the deal is signed the group will release 1,000 Afghan prisoners, mostly security personnel and government employees who are in their custody in different parts of the country.

In exchange, the Taliban expects the Afghan government to release their 5,000 fighters.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Doha to witness the signing of the accord, while Trump said Defence Secretary Mark Esper would separately issue a joint declaration with the Kabul government.

Source: Reuters/afp/aa

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