Speaking to reporters during the Munich Security Conference Friday afternoon, a senior Trump administration official told reporters the Taliban has agreed to a seven day period of reduction in violence ahead of an official announcement about a peace agreement with the United States.
"NATO now has around 16,000 troops in Afghanistan and we are ready to adjust that force if the Taliban is able to demonstrate the will and the ability to reduce violence. we see a path to peace". And they noted that, despite Trump's campaign pledge to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Republican president has nixed previous deals that appeared close in response to attacks on US forces.
Esper declined to comment on whether the US would cease counterterrorism operations during any period of reduced violence, saying talks were ongoing.
Pompeo said earlier this month that the United States wanted "demonstrable evidence" that the Taliban can and will reduce violence before signing a deal that would lead to Afghanistan peace talks and a withdrawal of American troops from the country.
Ghani, whose political future remains uncertain following last September's presidential election, which still has no official victor, has previously demanded that the Taliban negotiate with his government and has called for a permanent cease-fire.
Should the Taliban comply, the "reduction in violence" agreement would be followed by the signing of an agreement that would initiate peace negotiations that include all Afghan sides.
A Taliban official familiar with the deal said the second agreement would be signed on February 29 and the Afghan talks would begin on March 10.
USA troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) Base in Logar province, Afghanistan August 7, 2018.
"I think we're very close", Trump said on a podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio when asked if the United States had reached a tentative deal.
"That doesn't mean we'll have one but we'll know over the next two weeks", he said.
"We will stop all attacks in return for United States commitment to cease all their operations against us in Afghanistan", said a Taliban commander, speaking on condition anonymity.
Although the Taliban is negotiating with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, it refuses to talk directly to Ghani's government, which it denounces as a puppet of the West.
"If the Trump administration decides to reduce USA forces to around 8,600 in Afghanistan, I would totally support such a decision as conditions on the ground justify a reduction", tweeted Sen. "I think there's a good chance that we'll have a deal". But should they secure a bargain to get a US withdrawal, then the Taliban's commanders could be amenable. 'I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent'.
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