Taliban peace deal 'on the table,' says Esper

US Taliban Negotiate Proposed Seven Day ‘Reduction in Violence

"One thing I can tell you clearly is that the Afghan army, government and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are working together- whether to go towards peace or to bring pressure on the enemy -and we also will assure our people that defending the past two decades of achievements is the responsibility of our army", Khaild said.

MUNICH ― Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday confirmed a U.S. -Taliban peace deal is "on the table", and that it hinges on a seven-day reduction in violence ― a sign that all sides are closer than ever to ending of the 18-year conflict, America's longest war.

At Munich, the US and Afghan leaders will likely focus on finalizing just how violence reduction is defined, how it's monitored and how long it would have to last for the U.S.to sign a deal with the Taliban, according to Michael Kugelman, the Wilson Center's lead Afghanistan specialist.

"It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward - if we go forward", Reuters quoted Esper as saying.

"We've said all along that the best, if not the only, solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement".

A deal would commit Taliban insurgents to curb attacks in Afghanistan and the U.S.to reduce its troop presence there.

US, Taliban negotiate 7-day reduction in violence: Pentagon
US announces partial Taliban truce amid signs deal is near

The Taliban controls or contests half of Afghanistan, more territory than any time since the group was toppled in 2001 following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. The U.S. now has about 13,000 of the nearly 23,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2011.

"I think we're very close".

"That doesn't mean we'll have one but we'll know over the next two weeks", he said.

Trump's comments were the latest indication of significant progress in negotiations that the United States and the Taliban have been holding since December in Qatar. But the militants continued to refuse to hold official talks with the Afghan government, whom they dismissed as American "puppets".

"They thought that they had to kill people to put themselves in a little better negotiating position", he told reporters, calling the attack "a big mistake". The Taliban has warned that the USA would "lose the most" by cancelling the talks.

On Wednesday, the Taliban issued an ultimatum to Washington after weeks of talks with a USA peace envoy, demanding a reply to their offer of a seven-day reduction of violence, or they would walk away from the negotiating table.



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