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US, Taliban sign deal aimed at ending war in Afghanistan

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Posted at 6:37 AM, Feb 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-29 12:49:28-05

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The United States and the Taliban have signed a peace agreement aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan, America's longest.

The signing could help President Donald Trump fulfill a key campaign promise to extract America from its “endless wars.”

Under the agreement, the U.S. will begin withdrawing thousands of troops in exchange for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from being a launchpad for terrorist attacks.

If the Taliban meet their commitments, all U.S. troops would leave in 14 months. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to overthrow the Taliban, who had hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida as they planned and celebrated the assault.

The agreements are considered the first step for talks with Afghan factions, which are likely to be complicated. Under the agreement, the Afghan government would release 5,000 Taliban fighters, but it's unclear whether the government will do that. It's also unclear whether those fighters will abide by any peace deal, the Associated Press reported.

The complete withdrawal of American troops would not depend on any specific outcome in talks between Taliban and other Afghan factions, the AP reports.

In Qatar, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the Taliban, where the group has a political office, but did not sign the agreement. The agreement was signed by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Pompeo told reporters that the U.S. is “realistic” about the deal, but is “seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.