Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that a seven-day “reduction in violence” agreement with the Taliban is largely holding.
“So far, the reduction of violence is working,” Pompeo told reporters at a briefing. “Imperfect, but it’s working.”
Pompeo announced last week that the United States and the Taliban would sign a broader peace agreement at the end of February if a weeklong reduction in violence period holds.
That agreement would kick-start intra-Afghan negotiations and a gradual U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to wind down America’s longest war.
“We’re on the cusp of an enormous, enormous political opportunity,” Pompeo said Tuesday. “We want to make sure that those who want the status quo — bloodshed, tears, economic challenges; all of those people who have an interest, whether that’s because of corruption or because some ideological view — can’t spoil what it is that the Afghan people so richly deserve after they have sacrificed so much fighting alongside of us these past 20 years.”
The reduction in violence, which doesn’t go as far as a cease-fire, started Saturday when U.S. and Afghan forces and Taliban fighters were expected to largely halt offensive operations against each other.
Since the partial truce started, reports from Afghanistan have noted some clashes but have said violence and Taliban attacks have decreased.
The U.S. military, which had said it would continue conducting counterterrorism operations against ISIS and al Qaeda during the seven-day period, said Tuesday that it conducted two airstrikes in Kunar province, killing four ISIS fighters.
In his remarks Tuesday, Pompeo stressed that the United States would only sign the agreement with the Taliban “if and only if” the partial truce holds.
He also emphasized that under the pending agreement, U.S. forces are “not required to leave” unless the Taliban “can demonstrate they’re fulfilling every element of their end of the bargain,” including severing ties with terrorist groups such as Qaeda.
Pompeo would not say whether the Taliban must agree in the intra-Afghan talks to respect women’s rights in order to keep the deal from collapsing.
“The United States effort is to let the Afghans lead this process. And they’ll come up with a resolution that is, I’m sure, uniquely theirs, just like every nation across the world does,” Pompeo said. “I am confident the voices all across the Afghan political spectrum, the voices of women, the voices of minorities, the voices from all the different tribes and sects and political views, I’m confident all those voices will go into the ultimate solution.”