Published: Thu, March 15, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

US Commander Says Conditions Improving for Afghan Peace Talks

US Commander Says Conditions Improving for Afghan Peace Talks

The Taliban have seized a number of districts across the country in recent years, expanding their footprint after US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014.

That reversed a trend of scheduled drawdowns under his predecessor, Barack Obama, and set the stage for an open-ended conflict. Mattis noted some positive indications from Islamabad, including Pakistani military operations along the border. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

In the recent Kabul Process meeting, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made a comprehensive peace offer to Taliban fighters who renounce terrorism and cease violence.

USA military advisers claim the goal is to break down the insurgency network and its facilitators.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is escorted into the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan March 13, 2018.

A February 24 raid on an army base in the same district killed at least 18 soldiers, officials said, in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent months. Officially, the Taliban have not responded to that proposal and violent incidents continue.

He said this really is probably their best time to attempt a negotiation, because it's only going to get worse for them.

Mattis stressed that the military campaign was aimed at driving the insurgents toward a political reconciliation, as opposed to an outright battlefield defeat. We sought worldwide support for a well-coordinated counterterrorism strategy to defeat Taliban militants who continue to provide an operational umbrella under which more than 20 other transnational terrorist groups operate in Afghanistan.

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This comes amid a growing push for the Taliban to consider the newest peace deal being offered by the Afghan President. That would be a bridge too far.

"But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government".

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

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