US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

Joann Johnston
March 13, 2018

On February 28, Afghan President Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations. The former Marine general said it "may be a bridge too far" to expect the Islamic insurgent force to sit down at the negotiating table "in one fell swoop".

But Mattis said some insurgent leaders have expressed an interest in discussions.

The insurgent group has said it was prepared to negotiate, but only with the U.S. and not with the Kabul government. Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possible - defined as a political settlement with the Taliban.

"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan", he said.

United Nations said that over 445,000 people were displaced due to conflict in the country in 2017.

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

It marks Mattis' third visit to the country, where about 11,000 US troops are stationed.

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

The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down nearly immediately.

Mattis said the jump in attacks on civilians was an indication that a pressured Taliban is unable to conduct broader, ground-taking operations.

The Taliban overran a district headquarters in Afghanistan's western Farah province early on Monday, killing and wounding at least 15 members of the security forces, a provincial official said.

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

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

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