US & Taliban Reach Major Truce Deal; Features Eventual Release Of 5,000 Taliban Prisoners

A senior US official announced Friday that a ceasefire deal with the Taliban has been agreed to after 16 months of controversial direct State Department and Taliban negotiations, AP reports, as part of the continuing Trump administration saga to finally get out America's 18-year war. 

The deal is being described as "very specific" — a positive sign considering recent perhaps more ambiguous ceasefire attempts have quickly failed before even getting off the ground — and includes a seven day "reduction of violence" nationwide which is to be a precursor to all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days.

US Army photo

Defense Secretary Mark Esper had first hinted at the deal in comments on Friday, saying Washington had "negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence."

According to the AP, the end goal if this new deal sticks would "initiate the peace negotiations and the withdrawal of U.S. troops".

The AP describes the conditional precursor as follows:

The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Taliban had committed to a halt in roadside and suicide bombings as well as rocket attacks. The official said the U.S. would monitor the truce and determine if there were any violations.

The deal will not impact ongoing counter-terror operations against Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists still in Afghanistan, and is part of a broader White House policy that seeks to separate and turn the Taliban against these other Islamist insurgent rivals. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Esper met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of an international security summit in Munich on Friday, where details were discussed in private.

The deal is also said to involve a good faith agreement for the US and Afghan national government to provide for the release of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners after the ceasefire sticks

But the initial "reduction in violence" stipulation will be the key litmus test, considering past attempts have failed, with major bombings in Kabul having followed prior deals. There's also the likelihood that the Taliban doesn't have control of all of its own factions, and the possibility that dissenting leaders could seek to sabotage it.