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KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban fighters attacked Afghan government forces overnight, and militant commanders said on Monday insurgency operations would go-ahead until they receive fresh instructions based on a deal with the United States to reduce violence in the country.
Last week, a senior U.S. administration official said negotiations with Taliban representatives in Qatar had resulted in and agreement in principle for a week-long reduction of violence, but the seven-day period had not commenced. The official said the agreement covered all Afghan forces, and would be closely monitored.
"Our leadership hasn't conveyed any message about a ceasefire to us," a Taliban commander in Helmand, a southern province that has seen some of the fiercest fighting.
MUNICH/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has reached agreement with the Taliban on a weeklong reduction of violence that could lead to U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a senior administration official said on Friday, while cautioning that Taliban needed to honor commitments for the accord to stick.
The U.S. government and the Taliban have "negotiated a proposal for a 7-day reduction in violence," Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on Thursday.
As the war in Afghanistan drags on, and as President Donald Trump reportedly approves a tentative peace deal with the Taliban, several experts addressed a national security question that has dogged policy makers for years: if the 13,000 American troops still in Afghanistan were to leave, would the country become a launching pad for a second terrorist attack on the scale of September 11, 2001?
That question was brought up at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, where former officials from the U.S. military and State Department agreed that a large military presence in Afghanistan would not be necessary to ensure a second plot against the U.S. on the scale of 9/11 does not unfold. Instead, the officials said the U.S. could rely on diplomacy and its current mix of worldwide counter-terrorism assets to defeat any emerging threats to the homeland.
"Frankly, I believe we can sustain the counter-terrorism mission from outside Afghanistan," said Douglas Lute, a retired Army officer, former deputy national security advisor, and a former U.S. permanent representative to NATO, at a Senate hearing about the costs and benefits of the war in Afghanistan.
"That is contrary to a lot of military advice this committee would hear," Lute said. "But we do it most of the rest of the places around the world," such as in Somalia, across the Sahel, in North Africa and in Syria to some extent, he said.
President Donald Trump has vowed to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan but he did not provide a timeline for the withdrawal.
"In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are underway," the president said during Tuesday's State of the Union speech. "I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent. It is also not our function to serve other nations as law enforcement agencies."
"These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all," Trump continued. "We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home!"
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban on Tuesday accused the United States of hampering peace negotiations in response to the top American diplomat's comments that a reduction in violence was needed before a deal to end years of war could be struck.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said during a visit to Uzbekistan that "demonstrable evidence" of a reduction in Taliban violence was necessary for a peace agreement with the Islamist group.