Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

United States detecting some Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks - Mattis

United States detecting some Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks - Mattis

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.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered talks without preconditions with the Taliban insurgents last month, in what was seen by US officials as a major overture from Kabul.

The visit comes two weeks after President Ghani invited the Taliban to begin peace talks without preconditions to end the 16-year-old war in the Kabul Process Conference last month.

He said the positive signals had come from small numbers of insurgents.

The Taliban last week described the Afghan government as "illegitimate" and its peace process efforts as "deceptive", in a statement calling for a boycott of an Islamic scholars' conference in Jakarta.

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"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. "What does that victory look like?"

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

The U.S. has a renewed focus on Afghanistan after years of drawdowns under former president Barack Obama and talk by top U.S. generals of "not winning" and of a "stalemate" in the seemingly intractable conflict. "The victory will be a political reconciliation".

U.S. President Donald Trump in August announced an increase in the number of U.S. troops in the country to push back the resurgent Taliban. Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.

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Previous peace offers to the militants were refused.

Mr Mattis, a retired marine general who commanded USA troops in southern Afghanistan in the opening weeks of the war in 2001, said getting the Taliban to reconcile en masse may be "a bridge too far".

The visit is Mr Mattis's second since President Donald Trump announced last August that, despite his instinct to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, his administration would take a more aggressive approach to the conflict, now in its 17th year.

They said that while Afghan forces are getting better, the Taliban is likely to threaten Afghan stability in 2018. "There are operations by the Pakistan military that are helping right now, ongoing as we speak", he said.

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