Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Culture | By Stewart Greene

US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

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 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 Taliban also says that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis said. Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed process he said could lead to talks.

The insurgent group has said it was prepared to negotiate, but only with the USA and not with the Kabul government.

The defence secretary, who commanded USA troops as a Marine general in southern Afghanistan during the war with the Taliban in 2001, said that getting the militants on board for reconciliation may be a bridge too far.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Bakhtawer blamed Taliban insurgents, who have stepped up attacks in the province in recent months against Afghan security forces.

"What does that victory look like?"

Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they can not win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation. "Not a military victory - the victory will be a political reconciliation".

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

As part of the so-called South Asia Strategy, President Donald Trump a year ago ordered the increased bombing of Taliban targets - including drug-making labs and training camps.

This is Mattis's second visit to the war-torn country after he last visited in September.

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