By Jon Dougherty

(TNS) The beginning of the end of America’s longest war may be underway, according to an announcement Friday by the U.S. State Department.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States has reached an agreement with the Taliban to “reduce violence” ahead of what would be a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan after 19 years.

After meeting for weeks with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, U.S. and American officials have agreed “on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

If the reduction in violence pans out, U.S. and Taliban representatives will sign an agreement on February 29, followed by negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government.

“The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree on the way forward,” Pompeo stated. “Challenges remain, but the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity. The United States calls on all Afghans to seize this moment.”

Pompeo’s announcement comes after Sirajuddin Haqqani, a senior Taliban leader, attempted to portray the group as a victim of circumstances in an New York Times op-ed.

“We did not choose our war with the foreign coalition led by the United States. We were forced to defend ourselves. The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand,” he wrote. “That we today stand at the threshold of a peace agreement with the United States is no small milestone.”

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, which were blamed on al Qaeda and its leader at the time, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban government had been providing bin Laden and his group a safe haven in Afghanistan.

End the war in Afghanistan was a major pledge of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. Efforts to withdraw U.S. forces and end the war, however, have been stymied by ‘factors’ within the Pentagon, Congress, and the U.S. national security apparatus.

The Epoch Times noted:

The United States, led by White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, started negotiating with the Taliban last year. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on Feb. 13 that the parties negotiated a proposal for a weeklong reduction of violence.

Esper, speaking after a meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, said he was consulting with allies about the proposal.

“We’ve said that the best—if not only—solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement,” Esper said. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference later in the week, Esper called the solution “promising,” adding: “It’s my view as well that we have to give peace a chance, that the best if not the only way forward in Afghanistan is through a political agreement and that means taking some risk.”

“That means enabling our diplomats and that means working together with our partners and allies on the ground to affect such a thing,” he said.

Pompeo said earlier this month the U.S. and Taliban were close to an agreement but it would only come following “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban. He added that both sides had come close to an agreement before, but that the Taliban did not hold up their end of the dea.

“We’re working on a peace and reconciliation plan, putting the commas in the right place, getting the sentences right. We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence,” he told reporters in Uzbekistan.

“So, what we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat, so the inter-Afghan talks … will have a less violent context.”

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Most Americans have long gone about their day without giving Afghanistan and the sacrifices American troops still make in that godforsaken land any thought at all. But the ‘wash, rinse, repeat’ military strategy the Pentagon and successive presidents have been employing there for nearly two decades has gone beyond pointless to absurd.

We ‘made our point’ that you can’t attack the United States and get away with it 18-and-half years ago. The president is right; it’s long past time to get out.


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