USA detecting some Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks: Mattis

USA detecting some Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks: Mattis

USA detecting some Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks: Mattis

The secretary's visit comes shortly after the Afghan government said it would be willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a ceasefire with the militant group.

Mattis described the approach as peeling off fighters exhausted from a war that's gone on for more than 16 years.

Last month President Ghani, hosting an worldwide conference in Kabul, offered the Taliban a ceasefire and political recognition to come to the peace table without preconditions.

The United States has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military and greatly increased air strikes against the Taliban as part of a regional strategy announced previous year.

"We want the Afghans to lead and to provide the substance to the reconciliation effort", Mattis stated. A political reconciliation, not a military victory.

Mattis' trip to Afghanistan included a new security precaution where his arrival wasn't to be announced until he arrived at the airport and made his way to the US military headquarters in Kabul.

Afghan president's spokesman Dawa Khan Menapal told Anadolu Agency Ghani peace efforts with the Taliban topped the agenda of talks.

These and other moves boosted the number of United States troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500 to a total of more than 14,000.

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

Outlining his goals for the trip, Mattis said he wanted to get an assessment of both the re-tooled U.S. war effort as well as the reconciliation efforts.

The United States has in the past also expressed hope of "peeling off" elements of the Taliban and it was unclear how this new effort might be different.

Mr. Trump, however, said on January 29 that he sees no basis for peace talks as long as the Taliban are "killing people left and right". U.S. President Donald Trump in August announced an increase in the number of U.S. troops in the country to push back the resurgent Taliban. Neighboring countries are doubtful about America's commitment to a political resolution.

"We assess the overall security picture will. modestly deteriorate in the coming year and Kabul will continue to bear the brunt of the Taliban-led insurgency", Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee on March 6.

Taliban fighters still control large parts of the country and any new battlefield gains by US and USA -backed Afghan forces can not promise to overcome Afghanistan's yawning political divisions and entrenched corruption.

However, the Taliban appears likely to miss that conference and have ruled out direct talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they say is an illegitimate, foreign-imposed regime.

In a late-February report, the Pentagon's special inspector general for Afghanistan reported that the Afghan government's control of the country is at its lowest recorded level since the end of 2015 and that Taliban control it at its highest.

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