KABUL -  The Taliban have called for direct talks with the US to find a "peaceful solution" to the conflict in Afghanistan, in an apparent policy shift after months of escalating attacks.

Civilian casualties surged in recent months as militants from the Taliban unleashed a wave of bloodshed in urban areas and on security forces in response to a new open-ended military policy by US President Donald Trump.

In a statement posted late Monday, the Taliban said they "call on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary".

The statement referenced local reports that said US envoy Alice Wells had suggested during a recent visit to Kabul that a window was still open for talks.

It came days before the second round of a regional peace conference in Kabul, where representatives from 25 countries will discuss counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies in the war, which US officials have described as a stalemate.

Washington has long called for talks with the Taliban, but historically insisted that any dialogue must include the Afghan government in Kabul. There has been no response to the Taliban's offer from US officials.

Kabul urged the militants to take "practical steps", with government spokesman Haroon Chakhansori adding that "all doors for peace talks are open". "If they are Afghans they should come and talk to the Afghan government, the US will not talk to them," he told a press conference.

But a senior Taliban commander told AFP Tuesday that the group had little interest in including the Afghan government - or Islamabad, the militants' historic backers - in the potential sit down. "We are the real parties, so let's sit and talk directly, without the presence of any third party, either Pakistan or Afghanistan," the commander said.

The apparent openness to negotiations is unusual for the militant group, which has repeatedly stated that it will not enter talks until foreign troops leave the country.

Afghan political analyst Abdul Bari said increased US pressure on the Taliban and on Pakistan in recent months had forced the militants' hand. But he urged caution, saying that both the US and the Taliban have used such carrot and stick policies for years.

"It is too soon to know whether they are very honest this time. The group has always rejected any talks offer in the past," he said.

More than 16 years since the US invasion, less than 60 percent of Afghanistan's territory is under the Afghan government's control or influence, NATO figures have shown, with the rest controlled or contested by the Taliban and other militant groups.

Unveiling his new Afghan strategy last August, Trump said the US presence in Afghanistan would remain open-ended, as Washington dramatically stepped up strikes on militant strongholds.

The US has also increased pressure on neighbouring Pakistan, which it accuses of supporting the Taliban, freezing millions in aid in January and last week pushing to have the country included on a terror financing watchlist.

Analysts have suggested that the pressure may be driving a surge in attacks on soft targets including a spate of deadly assaults in Kabul in January, including on a luxury hotel and a massive ambulance bomb which detonated in a crowded street.

Trump ruled out holding talks with the Taliban in the wake of those attacks, though State Department officials have insisted they still hope to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

The Afghan capital will host the latest Kabul Process conference Wednesday, with President Ashraf Ghani vowing Tuesday his government will "present a comprehensive peace plan for Taliban and Pakistan".

The closest Kabul has come to direct peace talks with the Taliban was in 2015 in Pakistan. But the nascent dialogue was scuttled days later when Afghan officials announced that Taliban supremo Mullah Omar had been dead for years.