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Mattis in Kabul, says elements in Taliban open to peace talks

13 March 2018, 01:27 | Winston Chapman

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis

Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possible - defined as a political settlement with the Taliban.

The visit comes two weeks after President Ghani invited the Taliban to begin peace talks without preconditions to end the 16-year-old war in the Kabul Process Conference last month.

Mattis planned to meet with Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The United States previous year stepped up its military assistance to Afghanistan, notably through a sharp increase in air strikes, with the aim of breaking a stalemate with the insurgents and forcing them to the negotiating table. "It's a country whose own people and their own security forces handle law enforcement and any threats... certainly with global support for some years to come", he said.

The insurgent group has said it is prepared to negotiate, but only with the United States and not with the Kabul government.

"It's all working to achieve a political reconciliation, not a military victory", Mattis said.

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More than 3,000 additional USA forces have also arrived in Afghanistan to boost the training and advising of local troops.

The U.S. has increased its military presence and activities in Afghanistan under a more aggressive policy ordered by President Donald Trump, boosting the number of forces from 8,500 to about 14,000.

The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility, with Taliban spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi saying in a statement to the media that the group was behind the attack.

In exchange for these provisions, Ghani said the Taliban should officially recognize the Western-backed Afghan government and the country's constitution.

United States Defence Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday.

Mattis previously visited Afghanistan in April and September 2017.



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