The United States and the Taliban have agreed to a proposal for reduction in violence in Afghanistan for seven days.
The Defense Department is working with allies on the path forward, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a news conference after his meeting with NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
“The best, if not only solution forward is a political agreement,” he told reporters.
Separately, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about a “pretty important breakthrough over the last few days” in peace talks with representatives of the terrorist outfit.
“The President gave us the authority to continue to have the conversations where we hope we can get to the place where we can get a significant reduction in violence – not only on a piece of paper, but demonstrated in the capability to actually deliver a serious reduction of violence in Afghanistan,” he told reporters en route Munich.
“And if we can get there and we can hold that posture for a while, we may well be able to begin the real serious discussion, which is all the Afghans sitting at a table, finding a true reconciliation path forward – a difficult set of conversations, but one that’s long overdue,” Pompeo added.
He said that if the talks turn fruitful, that will give the opportunity to reduce the footprint not only for America’s forces in Afghanistan, but for all of the forces there.
Esper said the Pentagon is consulting with its allies and the Congress on the proposal.
He made it clear that a positive outcome is expected only if all parties comply with obligations. “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 to all of this,” he added.
NATO has agreed in principle to expand its role in the Middle East, the secretary said.
“We have also asked NATO’s military leaders to consider what more the alliance could do to assist the Iraqi security forces,” he told reporters.
In addition to discussing operations in the Middle East, Esper said he also emphasized to NATO defense ministers the importance of burden-sharing within the alliance, including the commitment of member nations to invest 2 percent of gross domestic product toward defense.
Between 2016 and 2020, NATO allies increased their investments by some $130 billion.
Esper said NATO allies must carefully consider the long-term risks of the economic and commercial choices they make, especially in regard to telecommunications. In particular, commercial 5G technology from China could put NATO security at risk, he added.
He warned that reliance on Chinese 5G vendors could render NATO nations’ critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage.
He urged allied and U.S. tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions.
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