KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A New Year's Day agreement struck between tribal and Afghan leaders may offer a chance of peace in the troubled Helmand province, officials said.
Leaders of a tribe responsible for many attacks in Sangin reached the accord to stop their offensives and cast out foreign fighters in the area in exchange for a prisoner release, the promise of development assistance and the possibility of setting up their own security force, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Terms of the agreement call for Alikozai elders to prevent members of their tribe from participating in attacks on Afghan and coalition forces, and to deny safe haven to Taliban fighters from Pakistan and other parts of Afghanistan.
If the agreement with the Alikozai tribe holds, it has the potential to bring calm to the area and affect the war across southern Afghanistan, U.S. officials said, cautioning that similar pacts elsewhere have fallen apart. The deal also opens up a key road toward the Kajaki Dam, where the U.S. government is repairing a hydropower plant to provide electricity to Kandahar.
The deal has "a huge potential to deliver change," U.S. Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, top operational commander in Afghanistan, told the Post Tuesday.
Taliban leaders have used Sangin as a staging area to assemble bombs and plan attacks throughout the south, officials said. If the insurgents' ability to act becomes more restricted, U.S. military officials said they believe militants will have to relocate to more remote places that offer greater challenges to their operations.