India will attend the signing of the landmark Untied States and Afghan Taliban peace deal. (Photo Credit: IANS/File)
India will attend the signing of the landmark United States and Afghan Taliban peace deal that will start a seven-day "reduction in violence" from Saturday and if successful, the two sides will sign the first phase of a deal aimed at ending decades of conflict. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo termed the development "important step on a long road to peace". The deal would allow for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001.
Sources said India has been invited by the Qatar government for the ceremony where the deal will be signed and Indian ambassador P Kumaran will attend it.
The US, which currently has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, could draw that number down to 8,600 within months of the agreement being signed.
Mike Pompeo earlier on Twitter wrote: "After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan. This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity.”
Pompeo said that intra-Afghan negotiations would begin shortly after the February 29 signing, expected to take place in the Qatari capital Doha. They will "build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan," he said.
The US top diplomat said that challenges remain, but that progress made so far "provides hope and represents a real opportunity. The United States calls on all Afghans to seize this moment".
The Taliban’s sheltering of Al-Qaeda was the main reason for the US invasion following the 9/11 attacks.
The conflict has cost the US taxpayer more than $1 trillion in military and rebuilding costs since the US-led invasion of 2001.
More than 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured over the past decade, according to the United Nations.
(With PTI inputs)