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Taliban open to 10-day ceasefire with US troops in Afghanistan
KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban will implement a 10-day ceasefire with U.S. troops, a reduction in violence with Afghan forces and discussions with Afghan government officials if it reaches a deal with U.S. negotiators in talks in Doha, two sources have said.
If an agreement is sealed, it could revive hopes for a long-term solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Taliban and U.S. negotiators met on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the signing of a peace deal, according to a spokesman for the Taliban office in Qatar. The talks were "useful" and would continue for a few days, the spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said on Twitter early on Friday.
U.S. President Donald Trump had called off the stop-start talks to end the 18-year war in September after an U.S. soldier was killed in an attack by the militant group.
They resumed but were interrupted again in December after the Taliban launched a suicide attack on a U.S. base outside Kabul killing two civilians.
Two sources close to the matter told Reuters on Wednesday that the Taliban's top leadership had now agreed to implement a 10-day ceasefire with U.S troops once a deal was signed in Doha, and to "reduce" attacks against the Afghan government.
A senior Taliban commander said: "The U.S. wanted us to announce a ceasefire during the peace talks which we had rejected. Our shura (council) has agreed to a ceasefire the day the peace accord is signed."
Once an agreement is in place, the Taliban and Afghan government could meet face to face in Germany, said the commander. Previously, the Taliban had refused to engage in talks with the Afghan government.
The U.S. team in Doha had demanded a ceasefire "which we had declined due to some issues," the Taliban commander said. "Now most of our reservations have been addressed." Another source close to the talks confirmed the commander's version of events.
A signing date has not been fixed, but the Taliban commander said he expected it to be "very soon."
Both sources asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman declined to comment and the Pentagon referred queries to the State Department.
PAKISTAN WARNS ON WITHDRAWAL
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was visiting top U.S. officials in Washington, said Islamabad had been facilitating the dialogue and had played its role in helping get the negotiations getting this far.
Qureshi noted that the Taliban ultimately sought the withdrawal of the roughly 13,000 American troops from Afghanistan in any agreement.
Qureshi stressed that Pakistan, which fears greater instability in neighbouring Afghanistan, did not want a precipitous U.S. withdrawal.
"The Taliban want withdrawal of foreign forces. What we are saying is, yes, they should be withdrawn, but the withdrawal should be a responsible one," Qureshi said."Let's not forget that there are forces, there are elements in Afghanistan that can take advantage if there is anarchy ... if there is some kind of civil war."
An Afghan presidency spokesman said a ceasefire was the only way to achieve sustainable and dignified peace. "Any plan which proposes a ceasefire as a basic step will be acceptable for the government," Sediqi Sediqqi tweeted on Friday.
Violence in Afghanistan rose after the breakdown of talks in September.
The Taliban's readiness to reduce violence revives odds of the peace process moving forward before the militant group launches what is usually an annual spring offensive around early April.
(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul; Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, John Stonestreet and Marguerita Choy)
Though the Army has yet to actually set an official recruiting goal for this year, leaders are confident they're going to bring in more soldiers than last year.
Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, told reporters on Wednesday that the Army was currently 2,226 contracts ahead of where it was in 2019.
"I will just tell you that this time last year we were in the red, and now we're in the green which is — the momentum's there and we see it continuing throughout the end of the year," Muth said, adding that the service hit recruiting numbers in February that haven't been hit during that month since 2014.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.
KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard members often serve side-by-side performing highly skilled and dangerous jobs, such as parachuting, explosives demolition and flight deck operations.
Reservists and Guard members are required to undergo the same training as specialized active-duty troops, and they face the same risks. Yet the extra incentive pay they receive for their work — called hazardous duty incentive pay — is merely a fraction of what their active-duty counterparts receive for performing the same job.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, D-3 of Moorestown, are partnering on legislation to correct the inequity. Known as the Guard and Reserve Hazard Duty Pay Equity Act, the bill seeks to standardize payment of hazardous duty incentive pay for all members of the armed services, including Reserve and National Guard components.
Another Marine was hit with jail time and a bad-conduct discharge in connection with a slew of arrests made last summer over suspicions that members of a California-based infantry battalion were transporting people who'd crossed into the U.S. illegally.