Taliban 'elements' interested in talks: USA defense secretary Jim Mattis

Taliban 'elements' interested in talks: USA defense secretary Jim Mattis

Flying into Kabul on a surprise visit, he said some Taliban rebels were signaling readiness to talk. "Not a military victory - the victory will be a political reconciliation".

The Afghan President's initiative includes declaring an indefinite ceasefire between both parties, recognizing the Taliban as a political party, and freeing the prisoners in order to initiate a path towards a peace process that puts an end to more than 16 years of conflict. Mattis said that the United States government under the leadership of President Donald Trump was determined to achieve victory in the Afghan war which happens to be the most protracted war in U.S. history.

As part of the so-called South Asia Strategy, President Donald Trump past year ordered the increased bombing of Taliban targets - including their drug-making labs and training camps - and more than 3,000 additional United States forces have arrived in Afghanistan to boost the training and advising of local troops.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani recently offered a comprehensive peace deal to the Taliban, but the militants have not responded and have increased their attacks. "But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government", he said. The insurgents have so far given no formal response to Kabul's offer for negotiations.

"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan", he said, adding, "Not a military victory - the victory will be a political reconciliation" with the Taliban.

Khost governor Shamim Katawazai meanwhile said that the Taliban's ongoing war against the Afghan people indicates that the group takes orders from other countries.

The US, however, holds the position that any talks should be led by Kabul, a stance Mattis reiterated on Tuesday.

Ghani's offer of peace talks comes as civilian casualties have soared in recent months, with the Taliban increasingly targeting towns and cities in response to Trump's new and more aggressive United States military policy.

There are now 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan, which is up from the 8,500 around the time President Obama left office. Pakistan, Iran and Russian Federation are thought to maintain ties to militant proxies inside Afghanistan in case the war-ravaged country collapses. The number of Afghan combat deaths also is withheld by the Afghan government.

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

The Afghan security forces were able to stop some attacks, Mattis said, though he noted he wanted to see them shift to a more "offensive mindset" in the coming months.

The military is battling a Taliban insurgency while also fighting Daesh terrorist group's gradual expansion in the country's north and its regular attacks in the capital Kabul. Afghan forces, while "unsteady", probably will maintain control of most major population centers in 2018, he added.

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