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Taliban attacks down as Afghanistan ‘reduction in violence’ deal holds

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) – A partial, week-long truce between the Taliban, American and Afghan forces held tenuously for a fourth day Tuesday, despite several insurgent attacks and the United States hitting Islamic State targets.

If the so-called “reduction in violence” continues, the U.S. and the Taliban are expected to sign a historic deal in Doha on Saturday that would see the Pentagon pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan after more than 18 years of war.

While the agreement doesn’t amount to a full ceasefire – the insurgents insist it only covers certain urban and military areas – the number of Taliban attacks has fallen dramatically.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Afghan security source said Taliban attacks had dropped from an average of 75 a day to about 15 since the truce began on February 22.

But underscoring the fragility of the situation, the interior ministry said five security personnel were killed in three attacks in rural areas Tuesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces announced the death of four Islamic State Khorasan Province members in two airstrikes in Kunar province.

ISKP are not part of the “reduction in violence” and are being separately pursued by the U.S. and the Taliban.

They first became active in Afghanistan in 2015 and for years held territory in the eastern province of Nangarhar, while claiming responsibility for a string of horrific bombings, including in Kabul.

The jihadists have complicated negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban.

While the Taliban want all American forces out, the Pentagon insists thousands must remain in Afghanistan to tackle ISKP and other jihadist groups.

“We continue to eliminate ISIS terrorists wherever they hide to protect Afghanistan while honoring US-Afghan-Taliban agreement to reduce the violence,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett said on Twitter.

The Afghan government said in November that its forces had largely defeated ISKP, but many of the group’s members fled from Nangarhar to bordering Kunar in pursuit of safety.

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