Afghanistan: US and Taliban negotiate week-long 'reduction in violence'

Sources said a deal could be reached within a month

epa08215434 US Secretary for Defense Mark Esper gives a press conference at the end of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 13 February 2020.  EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ
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The United States and the Taliban has negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday.

Sources had told Reuters that a US-Taliban peace deal could be signed this month if the Taliban significantly reduces violence, which could lead to an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

"The United States and the Taliban have negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence," Mr Esper told reporters during a news conference in Brussels at NATO headquarters.

"I'm here today consulting with allies about this proposal, and we've had a series of productive bilateral and collective meetings about the path forward," he added.

The tentative timeline came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there had been a possible breakthrough in US-Taliban talks in Qatar.

"I am pleased that our principal position on peace thus far has begun to yield fruitful results," Mr Ghani tweeted on Tuesday. "Our primary objective is to end the senseless bloodshed."

The talks had been deadlocked in part over a US demand that the insurgents agree to sharply reduce violence as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.

There are about 13,000 US troops as well as thousands of other NATO personnel in Afghanistan, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded the country following the September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

“The only solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement; progress has been made on this front and we’ll have more to report on that soon, I hope,” Mr Esper said, adding that he is consulting with other members of NATO, which runs a training mission in Afghanistan aimed at bolstering the country’s security forces.

"It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward - if we go forward," Mr Esper added.