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afghan peace talks

U.S., Taliban get closer to peace talks, but truce's success will be difficult to determine

The United States and the Taliban are inching closer to a peace settlement, but it won't be easy, The Associated Press reports.

A reduction in violence agreement between the two sides went into effect early Saturday in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has halted offensive operations. If it's successful, the week-long truce will be followed by a peace accord, scheduled to be signed Feb. 29, wrapping up the 18-year conflict and paving the way for American troops to gradually head home. If that deal is signed, the Afghan government plans to launch its own negotiations with the Taliban.

But U.S. military officials do not anticipate a smooth process. It will reportedly be challenging to determine if any attacks — which are anticipated to be carried out by so-called "spoilers" who are opposed to peace talks from happening at all — in the next week will breach the truce because of the decentralized nature of the Taliban's operations. "There are going to be a lot of opportunities for any militia commander, element of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other local forces who don't want to seal a deal, to conduct violence," said Seth Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Officials said Washington, Kabul, and the Taliban will maintain a channel to discuss any issues, such as allowing the Taliban to deny responsibility for an attack. Still, the "case-by-case" assessment will likely be difficult, and nobody is precisely sure how the U.S. will measure success. Read more at The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.