U.S Defense Chief Signals Imminent Deal With Afghan Taliban

Taliban

Mr Pompeo said President Donald Trump had given the go-ahead for further talks.

The prospective deal would see the USA pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

The United States has secured a seven-day reduction in violence in talks with the Taliban to help seek a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan, Pentagon chief Mark Esper has said.

"We have made real progress over the last handful of days and the President gave us the authority to continue to have the conversations", Pompeo said, adding: "We are not there yet".

But they have been fraught with challenges, with Mr Trump declaring the talks "dead" in September.

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

"We hope we can get to a place where we can get a significant reduction in violence not only on a piece of paper but demonstrated, the capability to actually deliver a serious reduction in violence in Afghanistan", he said.

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There are about 13,000 U.S. troops as well as thousands of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation personnel in Afghanistan, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

However, the secretary also stressed that the approach to the peace process would be conditions-based and continually reevaluated.

In December 2018, the Taliban announced they would meet United States officials to try to find a "roadmap to peace".

The agreement, which Trump would still have to formally approve, calls for both Taliban and USA forces to pledge to adhere to a week's "reduction of violence" that would lead to an agreement signing between the United States and the Taliban, according to the Associated Press. But the militants continued to refuse to hold official talks with the Afghan government, whom they dismissed as American "puppets".

"I think we're very close".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters on board a plane to the Munich Security Conference where he is expected to meet Ghani, said talks had "made real progress over the past couple of days".

The announcement came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reported "notable progress" in negotiations with the Islamist insurgents. The Taliban has warned that the United States would "lose the most" by cancelling the talks.

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