US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

Cheryl Sanders
March 13, 2018

"Right now we want the Afghans to lead and to provide the substance of the reconciliation effort", Mattis said.

The military is battling a Taliban insurgency while also fighting the Islamic State group's gradual expansion in the country's north and its regular attacks in the capital Kabul.

Mattis' remarks came as he flew into the war-torn city, weeks after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban.

In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.

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.

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 Taliban urged Washington last month to begin talks to end nearly 17 years of war in Afghanistan, which suggests they want to explore dialogue. Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possibly defined as a political settlement with the Taliban. The group ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when it was defeated by a United States -led troops in the wake of the September 11 attacks and it is fighting to restore Islamic rule in the country. "The victory will be a political reconciliation".

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

Taliban fighters control large parts of the country, and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians are being killed every year.

According to a report by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the people were displaced between January 1 and March 11.

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