Taliban Has Agreed to Cease-Fire in Afghanistan, With Possibility of Peace Deal: Report

The Taliban announced on Sunday that they have agreed to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan, providing hope that a potential peace agreement could move forward with the U.S. and the Afghan government.

The Associated Press first reported, citing anonymous Taliban officials, that the temporary agreement had been announced, although the promised duration is unclear. The news service said that some have suggested it would last at least 10 days, and it is expected that the Taliban's leader will sign the pending peace agreement.

The U.S. hopes to ink a peace deal that would allow President Donald Trump to end the longest war in the nation's history, which was launched 18 years ago in 2001 after the U.S. was attacked by Al Qaeda on September 11 of that year. Prior attempts by the Trump administration to secure an agreement had stalled, as the Taliban appeared unwilling to make commitments required by the U.S.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
In this photo taken on June 6, U.S. soldiers look out over hillsides during a visit of the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller at the Afghan National Army checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province THOMAS WATKINS/AFP/Getty

According to The Associated Press report, a "key pillar" of the potential deal will be direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government to shape the future of the south Asian nation. Those negotiations would reportedly cover topics ranging from a path forward on free speech, women's rights, the fate of Taliban fighters, and what will happen to Afghan warlords.

Newsweek has reached out to the White House, the State Department and United States Central Command (CENTCOM) for comment.

Trump has repeatedly criticized U.S. involvement in expensive foreign conflicts, and has drawn controversy for his abrupt withdrawal of American forces from Syria earlier this year. His administration has pushed for ending the war in Afghanistan, where the U.S. currently has about 12,000 troops stationed.

In September, Trump publicly announced via Twitter that he had called off a secret meeting with Taliban leaders and Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani.

"Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight," the president tweeted at the time. "Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations."

"They only made it worse! If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don't have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway. How many more decades are they willing to fight?" he wrote.

Then on Thanksgiving, during a surprise trip to Afghanistan, Trump said he'd resumed peace talks with the Taliban.

Trump and Ghani
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani shakes hands with President Donald Trump after addressing U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field on November 28 in Afghanistan OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty

"The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we're meeting with them," Trump said as he met with Afghanistan's president.

"We're going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly," he added. The president also stated his desire to reduce the U.S. troop presence in the country to about 8,600 soldiers.

The news of the possible peace deal and the cease-fire came as a Taliban attack claimed at least 17 lives in Afghanistan's northern Takhar province on Sunday, Al Jazeera reported. However, those were local fighters and not U.S. troops. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reportedly claimed that the militant group had killed 21 gunmen and taken their weapons.

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Michael James Goble became the 20th American to die this year in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon announced Goble's death two days before Christmas.

This article has been updated with additional background information.