The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on 29 Feb. at the end of a planned week-long “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan, US officials and the Taliban said on Friday, stirring fresh hopes for an end to the protracted conflict. The agreement could represent a chance for peace and a pullout of thousands of US troops that have been in the country since US-led forces ousted the hardline Islamist Taliban from power in 2001.

Previous attempts at negotiating peace agreements have been scuttled by Taliban attacks on international forces, most recently in December last year when an attack on a US military base put talks on hold. The reduction in violence (RIV), to be observed by Afghan, international and Taliban forces, will begin at midnight (1930 GMT) on Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address.

Written instructions from the Taliban’s leadership, shared with journalists, instructed all fighters to be on the defensive and to not travel to areas controlled by the Afghan govt and international forces. Instructions on what would happen after signing a deal with the US after seven days would be shared later, the Taliban spokesman said.

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