A member of the Taliban holds a flag in Kabul, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. The writing on the flag reads: 'There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah'. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail)

The U.S. government and the Taliban have "negotiated a proposal for a 7-day reduction in violence," Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on Thursday.

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The sun rises on Forward Operating Base Kutschbach, Kapisa province, Afghanistan, Dec. 12, 2012. The cloudy weather lowered visibility in the surrounding area. (Army photo / Spc. Andrew Claire Baker)

As the war in Afghanistan drags on, and as President Donald Trump reportedly approves a tentative peace deal with the Taliban, several experts addressed a national security question that has dogged policy makers for years: if the 13,000 American troops still in Afghanistan were to leave, would the country become a launching pad for a second terrorist attack on the scale of September 11, 2001?

That question was brought up at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, where former officials from the U.S. military and State Department agreed that a large military presence in Afghanistan would not be necessary to ensure a second plot against the U.S. on the scale of 9/11 does not unfold. Instead, the officials said the U.S. could rely on diplomacy and its current mix of worldwide counter-terrorism assets to defeat any emerging threats to the homeland.

"Frankly, I believe we can sustain the counter-terrorism mission from outside Afghanistan," said Douglas Lute, a retired Army officer, former deputy national security advisor, and a former U.S. permanent representative to NATO, at a Senate hearing about the costs and benefits of the war in Afghanistan.

"That is contrary to a lot of military advice this committee would hear," Lute said. "But we do it most of the rest of the places around the world," such as in Somalia, across the Sahel, in North Africa and in Syria to some extent, he said.

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UH60 assigned to Task Force Iron Dragons en route to deliver supplies in support Operation Freedom Sentinel in March 2019. (Photo by Spc. TIN P. VUONG)

A U.S. official has confirmed that an American in Afghanistan has been kidnapped, as first reported by Newsweek.

Newsweek has identified the missing U.S. citizen as Mark R. Frerichs, a former Navy diver who has worked as a logistician and civil engineer in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and other conflict zones for the past 10 years, according to Frerichs Linkedin profile.

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President Donald Trump has vowed to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan but he did not provide a timeline for the withdrawal.

"In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are underway," the president said during Tuesday's State of the Union speech. "I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent. It is also not our function to serve other nations as law enforcement agencies."

"These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all," Trump continued. "We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home!"

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File picture of members of a Taliban delegation leaving after peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban on Tuesday accused the United States of hampering peace negotiations in response to the top American diplomat's comments that a reduction in violence was needed before a deal to end years of war could be struck.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said during a visit to Uzbekistan that "demonstrable evidence" of a reduction in Taliban violence was necessary for a peace agreement with the Islamist group.

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In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Associated Press/Rahmat Gul)

The Taliban launched more attacks across Afghanistan in during the last three months of 2019 than during the same period each year since the U.S. first started collecting data back in 2010, according to a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

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