The US and the Taliban have negotiated a proposed seven-day 'reduction in violence'

Elizabeth Howe
February 13, 2020 - 9:52 am
A U.S. special operations forces member conducts combat operations in support of Operation Resolute Support (RS) in Southeast Afghanistan

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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced that the United States and the Taliban negotiated a proposal for a seven-day "reduction in violence." 

"I'm here today consulting with allies about this proposal and we've had a series of productive bilateral and collective meetings about the path forward," Esper said at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Belgium. "We said all along that the best if not only solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement. Progress has been made on this front and we'll have more reports on that soon I hope."

Esper declined to offer any additional details regarding the negotiations other than to say that the proposal is currently in the "consultative phase." Regarding the length of the proposed reduction, Esper said that he did, at this time, believe seven days would be enough — with a caveat.  

"It is our view that seven days, for now, is sufficient," Esper said. "But in all things, our approach to this process will be conditions-based. Let me say it again — conditions-based. So it will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward. If we go forward."

The announcement comes after another deadly weekend for U.S. service members in Afghanistan. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan Saturday, bringing the total number of U.S. service members killed in the country in 2020 to six.

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Also this week, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a comprehensive report that compiled all reconstruction-related deaths the U.S. has incurred in Afghanistan. 

Out of the 2,300 U.S. service members who have been killed in Afghanistan, roughly one in ten were killed in reconstruction or stabilization-related missions.

"Little effort has been made up to now to track the human costs — the number of people killed, wounded, or kidnapped — to accomplish these activities," John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, wrote in a letter to Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green. "This has left policy makers with an incomplete picture of the true cost of our efforts in Afghanistan."

Esper communicated that details of the proposed reduction in violence would be released as soon as allies and partners have had time to "digest."

"I think peace deserves a chance," Esper added. "But it will demand that all parties comply with their obligations if we move forward. And for us, for the United States, the key thing will be continued support to our Afghan partners, and it will need to be a conditions-based approach for all of this."

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