U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Qatar’s capital city, Doha on Saturday to witness the signing of a historic deal with Taliban insurgents in an effort to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, APA reports citing Reuters.
Pompeo arrived on a flight from Washington and was due to hold a meeting with the Qatari Emir before attending the signing ceremony.
The deal paves the way for the United States to gradually withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. But there are doubts over whether it will lead to a lasting peace as it merely paves the way for talks between the Afghan sides that many expect could be much more complicated.
Hours before the deal, the Taliban ordered all its fighters in Afghanistan “to refrain from any kind of attack ... for the happiness of the nation.”
“The biggest thing is that we hope the U.S. remain committed to their promises during the negotiation and peace deal,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist group.
Mujahid said it was “irritating and provocative” that foreign military aircraft continued to fly over Taliban territory, but militia fighters were following the order to stand-down
Millions of Afghans are hoping that the deal could pave the way for an end to America’s longest war, fought in their country.
The war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, began when the United States launched attacks on Afghanistan just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington by the Afghanistan-based al Qaeda militant group.
Washington accused the Taliban of harboring al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, and with its allies ousted the group from power. But the Taliban has remained a potent force and currently controls about 40% of Afghan territory.
For U.S President Donald Trump, the deal represents a chance to make good on his promise to bring U.S. troops home. But security experts have also called it a foreign policy gamble that would give the Taliban international legitimacy.
“Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan,” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter. “It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan.”
A 31-member Taliban delegation was in Qatar to oversee the signing by their political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.