US notes Taliban 'interest' in peace talks

AP License N  A Created 2018:03:09 13:10:32

Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan

United States Defence Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday.

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.

Mattis said the ultimate victory in Afghanistan will be a "political reconciliation" between Kabul and the Taliban, with a country capable of handling its own security.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis told reporters shortly before landing in Kabul, saying the signs date back several months.

Ghani, during a meeting with Mattis, described the new US strategy as a game changer, allowing Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness.

Afghan security forces recaptured a district headquarters in western Farah province on Monday, just hours after the Taliban overrun the police and administrative offices, killing eight policemen, a spokesman said.

Uzbekistan is set to host an Afghan peace conference later this month, where participants are expected to call for direct talks between the militant group and Ghani's government.

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Also the President's scheduled visit to the Internally Displaced People's camp at Gbamjiba, in the Guma Local Government Area was reportedly put off.

Thanks to the political process, Mattis said America is now looking towards victory in Afghanistan after more than 16 years of conflict.

It marks Mattis' third visit to the country, where about 11,000 US troops are stationed.

In August a year ago, US President Donald Trump asserted that his administration would take a more aggressive approach to deal with the Afghan conflict and to pull out US troops from Afghanistan.

"We've had some groups of Taliban - small groups - who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking".

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 military policy.

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, says that along with the eight killed in the assault, 10 security forces were wounded in the morning attack. "There are operations by the Pakistan military that are helping right now, ongoing as we speak", he said.

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