Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government announced a preliminary deal Wednesday to further pursue peace talks.
The formal, written agreement is the first of its kind to be reached between the two parties in their 19-year conflict, according to Reuters. The deal currently only serves as a pathway forward for further negotiations, but is considered important because it will permit the representatives from each side to begin discussing more important topics, Reuters reported.
1/4 I welcome the news from #Doha that the two Afghan sides have reached a significant milestone: A three-page agreement codifing rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) December 2, 2020
The deal is the result of months of negotiations in Qatar which were encouraged by various western governments and international bodies, including the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement Wednesday that said, in part, “This achievement demonstrates that the Afghan Islamic Republic and Taliban are serious, able to overcome differences, and ready to deal with difficult issues.”
Onlookers hope the next step in the process will be a ceasefire agreement. Taliban fighters have refused to agree to a ceasefire up to this point and have continued to carry out attacks while negotiations were ongoing, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Report: Photos Emerge Of Soldier Chugging Beer Out Of Dead Taliban Soldier’s Prosthetic Leg)
A February deal says that foreign military forces are to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for anti-terrorism guarantees from Taliban forces. The United States removed the group from power in 2001 and has backed the Afghan government since, although the Taliban still controls vast swathes of the country, per Reuters.
The Trump administration recently announced intentions to further withdraw American troops from the country before the end of his term.