The U.S. and Taliban are negotiating a seven-day “reduction in violence” so peace talks can move forward, though the specifics of the proposal aren’t being released as American officials discuss the proposal with allies, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
Esper, speaking at the conclusion of a NATO defense ministerial conference in Belgium on Feb. 13, said he has been consulting with allies on the “path forward” in Afghanistan.
“Our approach is this: The best, if not only, solution forward is a political agreement,” Esper said. “We have the basis for one on the table and we’re taking a hard look at it.”
Esper said the seven day period is “sufficient” for now, though any agreement will be “conditions based.” Following the NATO meeting, he moved on to the 2020 Munich Security Conference, where he is expected to continue deliberations on the possible agreement.
“It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward—if we go forward,” Esper said.
The discussions come after a month that saw a steady pace of U.S. operations and multiple casualties, including two USAF pilots who were killed in an E-11 crash and two soldiers killed in a Taliban attack.
U.S. aircraft flew 129 strike sorties in January, releasing 415 weapons. This is the second lowest total in about two years, but the second-highest January total since at least 2009. In the same month, U.S. airlifters airdropped 37,260 pounds of supplies, along with carrying 11,920 passengers and 10,225 short tons of cargo, according to AFCENT.