A seven-day "reduction in violence" begins Friday in Afghanistan between US troops and the Taliban, a move the BBC notes is meant to lead to a more permanent ceasefire. "After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. "This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity." If the truce holds for the week, Pompeo notes in a longer note that both sides will sign on Feb. 29 the first part of a deal aimed at ending nearly 20 years of conflict. The Afghan government wasn't involved in the yearlong negotiations between the US and the Taliban. "This is a critical test of the Taliban's willingness and ability to reduce violence, and contribute to peace in good faith," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says in a statement.
He adds: "This could pave the way for negotiations among Afghans, sustainable peace, and ensuring the country is never again a safe haven for terrorists." Per NBC News, the "RIV" deal came about after the militants rejected the idea of a full ceasefire with Afghan forces; it's unclear what the exact terms of deal are. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on blowback against a Thursday op-ed in the New York Times entitled "What We, the Taliban, Want," penned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban. Both readers and Times reporters voiced upset that Haqqani was given a platform—especially because he's been designated by the FBI as a "specially designated global terrorist" said to have been involved in deadly military strikes against US troops and Afghan citizens—but a Times rep says "his perspective [is] relevant at this particular moment." (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)