Mattis Says Some Taliban Factions Might Be Interested In Peace Talks

Mattis Says Some Taliban Factions Might Be Interested In Peace Talks

Mattis Says Some Taliban Factions Might Be Interested In Peace Talks

Taliban so far have not responded to the offer.

While all of the Taliban may not be interested in peace talks, several smaller factions are, Mattis said Tuesday before landing in Kabul to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. "Not a military victory - the victory will be a political reconciliation".

The Taliban have waged an insurgency to restore Islamic rule since being overthrown by the US -led coalition in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

"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, which has achieved a stalemate in recent years and shown little interest in conceding to the Kabul government.

Outlining his goals for the trip, Mattis said he wanted to get an assessment of both the re-tooled United States war effort as well as the reconciliation efforts.

Last month, Ghani, hosting an global conference in Kabul, offered the Taliban a ceasefire and political recognition to come to the peace table without preconditions.

Two weeks ago, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered direct talks with the Taliban with no preconditions.

"I think we will succeed, and we hope and pray that our global friends and our regional friends will stay with us, and that people on the other side, the Taliban, will see that this is their best chance, and we hope that they will take a chance that is offered earnestly and for the good of our people", he added.

The US stance is it wants Kabul to lead the way for the talks.

Mattis' visit comes a week after U.S. intelligence officials told Congress that the Taliban was likely to continue to threaten Afghan stability in 2018, despite an improvement in Afghan security forces.

These and other moves boosted the number of United States troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500 to a total of more than 14,000.

The US has renewed its focus on Afghanistan after years of drawdowns under former president Barack Obama and talk by top US generals of "not winning" and of a "stalemate" in the seemingly intractable conflict. Neighboring countries are doubtful about America's commitment to a political resolution.

Mattis said the goal was to convince the Taliban insurgents that they could not win, which would hopefully push them towards reconciliation.

He defined victory in Afghanistan as a political settlement between the Taliban and the government, and an Afghan military that is capable of securing the country largely on its own.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of U.S. European Command, told a congressional panel on March 8, just days after visiting Afghanistan, that the Army's newly deployed brigade of advisers are expected to provide "a great boost for the mission" by operating more widely and closer to the front lines.

"I want to talk to people here and see the reality of how they see it, and go back and talk to our intelligence agencies to get a full assessment of where we're at", he said.

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