The violence reduction, a decisive condition of the possible peace deal, began early Saturday Kabul time — just after midnight, according to Afghanistan's National Security Council and a senior State Department official.
"U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan," Pompeo said in a statement Friday, referring to U.S.-Taliban talks in the Qatari capital.
"Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29."
The Taliban said "both parties will now create a suitable security situation in advance of [the agreement's] signing date," will "make arrangements for the release of prisoners" and prepare for intra-Afghan negotiations, according to the group's statement released to the media Friday.
The U.S. military command in Kabul said it has nothing to announce at this time.
“If things go according to the plan,” the reduction in violence will begin Saturday, Javid Faisal, the Afghan National Security Council’s spokesman, told The Washington Post. The senior State Department official confirmed the date, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the violence-reduction plan.
The week-long reduction in violence will require the Taliban, the United States and Afghan government-aligned forces to largely cease all planned offensive operations nationwide. The period is not being called a cease-fire, and U.S. forces will continue to carry out counterterrorism operations against groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Under that draft September agreement, the United States would withdraw thousands of its troops in exchange for a pledge from the Taliban to begin talks with the Afghan government and a vow not to harbor terrorist groups with aims to attack the West.
That draft deal also stated that the United States would maintain a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan. But in Taliban statements Friday, the group claimed that the new deal would lead to “the withdrawal of all foreign forces … so that our people can live a peaceful and prosperous life under the shade of an Islamic system.”
U.S. officials declined to provide further details about the peace deal.
The delicate violence reduction period comes as Afghan politics are deeply divided after the announcement of disputed election results this week.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, both declared victory after the results were announced. Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, declared the results illegal and announced that he will begin setting up a parallel government.
Should this political turmoil persist, it will further complicate the Afghan government’s next steps after the signing of the peace deal. Once the deal is signed, the Afghan government will be tasked with forming a negotiating team before launching its own talks with the Taliban.
Ghani has said that he will build a negotiating team that is inclusive, but the possibility of Abdullah forming a parallel government could severely undermine that effort. Additionally, the formal Afghan military is supported by dozens of armed groups that don’t always fall under the government’s command and control. Any political upheaval in Kabul could test some of those already weak allegiances.
U.S. officials have warned that such groups could act as “spoilers” and upend the deal despite security guarantees from the Taliban and the Afghan government.
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator, described potential “spoilers” as groups both inside and outside Afghanistan that do not see a peace deal as in their interest and would rather see the conflict continue.
Regardless, he said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for peace. Khalilzad spoke at a United Nations conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, earlier this week.
The deputy leader of the Taliban said “there will be the challenge of putting into effect our agreement with the United States,” in a controversial New York Times op-ed published Thursday.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the leader of the insurgent Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, said “a degree of trust has been built through our talks with the American negotiators in Doha, Qatar, but just as the United States does not trust us completely, we too are very far from fully trusting it.”
Hudson reported from Istanbul. Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.