BRUSSELS -- The United States has negotiated a proposal with the radical Islamist Taliban group to scale back violence for seven days as part of efforts to strike a peace deal in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. defense secretary.
"We've said all along that the best, if not only solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement," Mark Esper said on Thursday at a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.
"We have the basis for one on the table and we are taking a hard look at it," he adds.
Representatives from the Taliban and the U.S. have been in talks since July 2018 for a solution to the conflicts that have ravaged Afghanistan for 18 years.
The new proposal to reduce bloodshed could be the first step towards a wider peace deal, though Esper stressed it was too soon to say.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also cautioned that the deal was not finalized yet, but insisted the talks were moving in the right direction.
"We have made real progress over the last handful of days," Pompeo told reporters while in Germany ahead of the Munich Security Conference. "It's complicated. We're not there yet, but I'll be working on it."
The U.S. has been calling for Taliban militants to show they can reduce violence before any agreement can be inked.
"I think peace deserves a chance. But it will demand that all parties comply with their obligations if we move forward," Esper said.
Past ceasefire attempts have failed, and Taliban control of Afghan territory is on the rise.