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Zalmay Khalilzad, America's special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, signs a peace deal with the Taliban, along with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the militant group's top political leader, in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Zalmay Khalilzad, America's special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, signs a peace deal with the Taliban, along with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the militant group's top political leader, in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (J.P. Lawrence / Stars and Stripes)

KABUL, Afghanistan — The top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan and his counterpart in the Taliban traded words on Twitter in Saturday statements that appeared to reveal unwritten secret agreements between America and the militant group.

The U.S. military warned the Taliban it must reduce attacks in line with an informal agreement to lower violence by 80%, in a letter posted online by Col. Sonny Leggett.

“If the violence cannot be reduced — then yes, there will be responses,” Leggett said in the letter, addressed to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Mujahid called the U.S. statement “pointless and provocative” in a response later in the day.

U.S. officials have consistently said continued violence against Afghan troops by the Taliban violates an agreement signed two months ago, despite such attacks not being expressly prohibited in the released text of the deal.

The deal says that if the Taliban keep terrorists from operating in Afghanistan, stop attacking the U.S. and its allies, and hold intra-Afghan peace talks with the Kabul government, foreign forces will begin a phased withdrawal to leave the country in 14 months.

The deal also contains unwritten agreements, Leggett said on Twitter.

“During those long negotiations there were written and spoken commitments,” Leggett wrote. “We spoke of ALL sides reducing violence by as much as 80% to pave the way for peace talks.”

U.S. forces have begun drawing down from about 13,000 troops to 8,600 as part of the deal. But key parts of the agreement — prisoner exchanges and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government — are long behind schedule.

Demands for lower violence in the country come after attacks on Afghan forces surged above “seasonal norms” after the deal was signed, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released Friday.

The Taliban meanwhile accused the U.S. of violating the deal by continuing to bomb its fighters.

In response, the letter by Leggett said U.S. forces have not conducted any offensive strikes since the deal’s signing, adding operations to protect Afghan troops are allowed.

Saturday’s exchange was a rare revelation of details in U.S. and Taliban deal, said Andrew Watkins, a senior Afghanistan analyst at International Crisis Group, a nonprofit think tank based in Brussels.

“The fact the U.S. is bringing this out into the public now, two months later, suggests the U.S. may feel things aren’t working,” Watkins told Stars and Stripes on Sunday.Lawrence.jp@stripes.comTwitter: @jplawrence3

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