Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

United States picking up Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks: Mattis

United States picking up Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks: Mattis

This also includes ensuring that the government of Afghanistan continues to make the necessary reforms that its President Ashraf Ghani has already committed to and that he is moving out on. But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government.

"All wars come to an end", Mattis said, The Washington Post reported. So the emphasis is on drawing in Taliban elements piecemeal.

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. Russian Federation concedes "dozens" of civilians injured in Syria clash Pentagon: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen "soon" Russian Federation concedes "dozens" of citizens injured in clash with USA forces in Syria MORE said Tuesday. "It's all working to achieve a political reconciliation, not a military victory", Gen Mattis said. At that point, he said, Afghanistan would not be "a haven for attacks internationally" as it was when al-Qaida used the country as a launchpad for the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Ghani, during a meeting with Mattis, described the new USA strategy as a game changer, allowing Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness. However, U.S. was not willing to enter peace talks.

"It has been a game-changer because it has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions", he said.

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Last month in an open letter Taliban reached out to the hopes of ending the war.

USA intelligence officials are predicting the war will remain stalemated as the traditionally most intensive fighting season begins this spring.

Mattis was speaking to reporters before landing in Kabul for an unannounced visit there during an global trip.

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

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.

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The United States has boosted the number of US troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000, and stepped up air strikes in the country.

Mattis acknowledged that efforts to reconcile with the entire Taliban have been hard. The message will hopefully push them towards reconciliation. The US also shifted A-10 attack planes and other aircraft from striking ISIS in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan as part of Trump's new approach.

But Taliban attacks have continued, including a January suicide bombing in Kabul that killed more than 100 people.

Responding to a question, Votel described Taliban as a narco-terror group. Neighboring countries are doubtful about America's commitment to a political resolution. "It's not a popular insurgency", he said.

In Votel's view, the greatest risk to stability in Afghanistan is the Kabul government's "uncertain political situation" as it prepares for planned July 2018 parliamentary elections.

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