(Bloomberg) – The U.S. and Taliban could soon reach an agreement to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
“The United States and the Taliban have negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence,” Esper said in Brussels on Thursday after a meeting of defense officials at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He said that “progress has been made towards broader political agreement”.
An agreement would oblige the Taliban insurgents to curb attacks in Afghanistan and the United States to reduce their presence there. This would pave the way for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government over a peace agreement to end the longest war in the United States.
“The only solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement. Progress has been made in this regard and I hope we will be able to report more soon, ”said Esper. He consults with other NATO members who are conducting a training mission in Afghanistan to strengthen the country’s security forces.
President Donald Trump plays with direct engagement for the Taliban, which was once a safe haven in Afghanistan for the Al Qaeda terrorist group, and will help him keep a promise if he runs for office in 2016 to get America out to get out what he calls “endless” wars. “
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told reporters on his plane to Munich on Thursday that there was “a fairly important breakthrough” in talks with the Taliban and “the president gave us authority to continue the talks.”
Pompeo said if the talks lead to a significant reduction in violence and “if we can hold this stance for a while, we can start the real, serious discussion at which all Afghans are seated” look for a broader agreement.
Under the leadership of the Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. delegation has been negotiating mainly with the Taliban in Qatar since the end of 2018. In September, Trump broke off the talks abruptly in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.
A U.S. defense official warned that despite the many factions in Afghanistan, the attacks would likely continue, even if the Taliban leaders pledged to reduce violence by seven days. The official, who taught reporters on condition of anonymity, also said that the Taliban share US aversion to the Islamic State and consider the terrorist group a dangerous threat.
The Taliban control or dispute half of Afghanistan, more territory than ever since the group was overthrown in 2001 after the terrorist attacks on the United States. The U.S. now has approximately 13,000 of nearly 23,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, up from a high of 100,000 in 2011.
(Updates with Pompeo’s comment in the sixth paragraph)
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