Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, Esper said it was time “to give peace a chance” through a political solution to the nearly 19-year conflict.
“That means taking some risk,” he said. “That means enabling our diplomats and that means working together with our partners and allies on the ground to affect such a thing.”
His remarks came a day after a senior U.S. official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, told reporters at the sidelines of the Munich conference that the United States and the Taliban had reached a deal on a weeklong reduction of violence that would take effect “very soon.”
If successful, the weeklong truce could lead to the signing of a broader agreement between the United States and the Taliban on the withdrawal of around 20,000 foreign troops from the country.
That deal would trigger the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations over the political future of the country.
The truce deal was announced after a meeting between Esper, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the conference.
U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and General Scott Miller, the commander of the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan, also attended the meeting.