Pompeo: United States will sign Taliban deal if violence pact holds

Pompeo: United States will sign Taliban deal if violence pact holds

Feb. 26 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will sign a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops from Afghanistan if the current weeklong reduction in violence is successful.

“If — and only if — it’s successful, we will sign the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” Pompeo told reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

He said if the seven-day reduction in violence pact that started Friday holds, the United States will sign the deal on or around Saturday to begin a conditions-based phased withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Pompeo said this weeklong reduction in violence is the first agreement to halt fighting in the 19-year war, creating “a historic opportunity for peace.”

“It won’t be easy to obtain,” he said. “We should seize the moment.”

In return for the U.S. troop withdrawal under the deal, the Taliban would agree to intra-Afghan negotiations, the first for all sides of the conflict as the terrorist organization has refused to negotiate with Afghanistan as it views the government as an instrument of the United States.

“The Taliban must respect the agreement, specifically regarding their promises of severing ties with terrorists,” he said. “We’re not required to leave unless they can demonstrate they are fulfilling every element of their end of the bargain.”

Earlier Tuesday, President Donald Trump told reporters in New Delhi, India, that “we’re pretty close” to signing the deal with the Taliban.

“We’ve got two days now under our belt without violence or, I guess, a minimum of violence,” he said. “And we’ll see what happens. But people want to see it.”

Trump said the United States would like to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan but warned the Taliban that if it takes advantage of the situation “we will hit them so hard.”

“We could win that very easily,” he said. “We don’t have to act as a police force.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters a quarter of its 12,000 to 13,000 troops in Afghanistan could be reduced to 8,600 during the first phase of the withdrawal.

Trump called off the protracted negotiations over a peace deal in September following a Taliban attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier. The president then announced the resumption of talks during a surprise Thanksgiving trip to visit troops at Bagram Airfield in the Middle Eastern country.

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