US, Taliban reach agreement to reduce violence, opening door to troop withdrawal deal

US Army soldiers from NATO look on as U.S. flag flies at a checkpoint during a patrol against Islamic State militants at the Deh Bala district in the eastern province of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, July 7, 2018.Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

A Taliban source told ABC News the reduction would begin on Feb. 22, with plans for the two sides to sign the larger agreement on Feb. 29 and Afghan national peace talks to begin March 10.

While it’s not a full ceasefire, the reduction is nationwide and includes Afghan government forces, not just the U.S. and Taliban. The language is also “very specific,” the official said, including prohibiting roadside bombs, suicide bombs and rocket attacks.

It’s still unclear if certain military activity will still be permissible, making this interim deal different from a complete ceasefire.

The Afghan government, which the Taliban refuses to recognize, had been hoping for a permanent ceasefire first. The U.S. had initially called for a one as part of any deal, but abandoned that after the Taliban made clear they wouldn’t agree to it. But the senior State Department official said a “comprehensive, permanent ceasefire to end the Afghan-Afghan war will be one of the first topics” of Afghan national peace talks.

They refused, however, to say whether the U.S. withdrawal was conditioned on those Afghan peace talks being successful, calling it a hypothetical.

But the senior official left the door open to the agreement ultimately ending with no U.S. troops in Afghanistan at all.

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