US Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Afghan capital

Lula Sharp
March 13, 2018

Mattis made the suggestion Tuesday before arriving in Kabul on an unannounced visit to discuss President Ashraf Ghani's plan to open peace talks with the Taliban. The insurgents have so far given no formal response to Kabul's offer for negotiations.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis said.

Mattis said the ultimate victory in Afghanistan will be a "political reconciliation" between Kabul and the Taliban, with a country capable of handling its own security.

Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the USA position that the talks should be led by Kabul. The group ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when it was defeated by a USA -led troops in the wake of the September 11 attacks and it is fighting to restore Islamic rule in the country.

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

He will also meet United States commanders and allied troops posted in the country, TOLO news reported.

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In August past year, US President Donald Trump asserted that his administration would take a more aggressive approach to deal with the Afghan conflict and to pull out US troops from Afghanistan.

Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.

The Taliban has previously offered to hold talks on a possible peace agreement, but only directly with the United States, which Mattis rejects.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it began, according to a media statement from Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman.

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

Mattis also said he had seen some changes in Pakistan's behaviour since Trump blasted the country a year ago for harbouring the Taliban.

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