Pentagon: US, Taliban reach short-term 'reduction in violence' deal

The partial truce could lead to signing of a US-Taliban peace deal expected by the end of this month

Washington's top negotiator announced in September that the USA would withdraw 5,400 troops from Afghanistan within 20 weeks as part of a deal agreed "in principle" with Taliban militants.

President Donald Trump would still have to formally approve the agreement and finalization of details is expected at this week's Munich Security Conference, where Esper and Pompeo will meet with Afghan President Ashaf Ghani.

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

"I think we're very close". That would be followed, within 10 days, by all-Afghan negotiations to set the road map for the political future of a post-war Afghanistan. The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, also said the Taliban shares the USA antipathy toward Islamic State, viewing the terrorist group as a risky threat.

Khalid also said that on Thursday NATO at the defense ministers meeting, all allies reiterated their commitment for supporting Afghan forces until 2024.

The announcements by the U.S. on Thursday came after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he had been informed of "notable progress" in the talks, which his government is not involved in. "Our approach, as always, is conditions based, so it will be an evaluative process as we go forward―if we go forward". "Progress has been made on this front, and will have more to report on that soon, I hope", he added.

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Pompeo said that if the talks result in a significant reduction in violence and "if we can hold that posture for a while, then we'll be able to begin the real, serious discussion, which is all the Afghans sitting at a table" to seek a broader accord.

The US and the Taliban have been locked in gruelling talks that have stretched over more than a year, seeking an end to Afghanistan's 18-year war, the US's longest conflict.

The Taliban managed to impose a brief ceasefire during the Eid holiday several years back, but it's unclear whether the Taliban senior leadership can control its members enough to reduce violence within the agreed period.

"U.S. officials will need to convince them that this thing can be pulled off, and it'll be easier to make that argument if they can show that the right monitoring mechanisms will be in place", Kugelman said.

Khalid further said that the Afghan government was the first institute that gave the peace message to the Taliban.

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