World

Elements of the Taliban open to talks with Afghan government, says Mattis

Elements of the Taliban open to talks with Afghan government, says Mattis

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Kabul for an unannounced visit to take stock of the war and the prospects of drawing some elements of the Taliban into peace talks with the Afghan government, RFE/RL reports.

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 said the goal was to take advantage of Taliban fracturing to peel off insurgents exhausted of fighting and create a process that could incorporate some Taliban leaders.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis told reporters shortly before landing in Kabul, saying the signs date back several months.

Ghani's peace plan includes eventually recognizing the Taliban as a political party.

Afghan security forces recaptured a district headquarters in western Farah province on Monday, just hours after the Taliban overrun the police and administrative offices, killing eight policemen, a spokesman said.

"We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort", he said.




The UN said on Tuesday that 30,672 people have been displaced in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict. "Not a military victory - the victory will be a political reconciliation".

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

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

Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the US position that the talks should be led by Kabul.

The Taliban, Afghanistan's biggest militant group, claimed 472 attacks in January alone, the Washington-based terrorism research group TRAC said-an astonishing number given that the traditional fighting season does not usually start until freezing temperatures have subsided in the spring.

The insurgents have recently stepped up attacks against Afghan security forces across Farah province.

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


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