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The United States and the Taliban sign a historic peace agreement: everything you need to know

The United States and the Taliban signed a historic peace agreement on Saturday after nearly 17 months of negotiations, clearing the way for Washington to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and end the 18-year war there. Here is everything you need to know:

* The United States and its allies will withdraw all their forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban comply with the agreement, Washington and Kabul said in a joint statement. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pomepo, said they will closely monitor the Taliban’s compliance with the agreement, adding that the pact will mean nothing if no concrete action is taken on the promises.

* The agreement follows a partial truce of a week, a “reduction of violence” agreed by the United States and the Taliban. Although skirmishes were reported during the period, observers say the partial truce, in general, was successful, with a violence reduction of almost 80%.

* The agreement requires intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government, the first, as well as other armed tribal groups within 10 to 15 days; reduction of US troops in Afghanistan from the current 13,000 to 8,600.

* Under the agreement, the Taliban want 5,000 fighters to be released from prisons run by Afghans, but it is not clear if the Afghan government will agree. There are also questions about whether Taliban fighters loyal to hard-line Islamist dissident groups will be willing to adhere to the violence reduction agreement.

* India was also present in the room, for the first time, although as an observer. He was represented by his ambassador to Qatar, P Kumaran. During the negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, New Delhi had insisted on an “Afghan-led” approach. However, India sent two former diplomats as “unofficial representatives” in talks led by Moscow with the Taliban in November 2018.

* Hours before the agreement, the Taliban ordered all their fighters in Afghanistan “to refrain from any kind of attack … for the happiness of the nation.”

* The war, which killed tens of thousands of people, began when the United States launched attacks against Afghanistan a few weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington by the militant group Al Qaeda based in Afghanistan. Washington accused the Taliban of harboring al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, and with his allies expelled the group from power. But the Taliban have remained a powerful force and currently control around 40% of Afghan territory.

* There are currently more than 16,500 soldiers serving under the NATO flag, of which 8,000 are Americans. Germany has the next largest contingent, with 1,300 soldiers, followed by Britain with 1,100. In total, 38 NATO countries are contributing forces to Afghanistan.

(With agency contributions)

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