Mattis in Kabul To Seek 'Political Reconciliation' between Taliban and Afghan Government

Mattis in Kabul To Seek 'Political Reconciliation' between Taliban and Afghan Government

At least ten security forces were killed on Wednesday in an insurgent attack in western Afghanistan.

"When commando forces were deployed they (the militants) retreated", Jamila Amini, a member of the Farah provincial council, told AFP.

Fared Bakhtawer, head of the provincial council in Farah, said Tuesday that Insurgents took five other police alive from the checkpoint near Farah city.

A day earlier, security forces recaptured a district headquarters in Farah, just hours after Taliban fighters overran police and administrative offices, killing eight police and wounding 10 others.

The Taliban 's muted response to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's offer of peace talks last month reflects an internal debate over the merits of engaging with a government that the group has long viewed as illegitimate, analysts say.

He said another three police officers were wounded in the attack in the southern province's Nad Ali district.

But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered talks without preconditions with the Taliban insurgents last month, in what was seen by USA officials as a major overture from Kabul. In return, the Taliban would need to recognise the Kabul government and constitution - a perennial sticking point in past attempts to open talks. "That may be a bridge too far to expect", Mattis said. "But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government", he said.

Asked whether the United States would be willing to talk directly with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the USA position that the talks should be led by Kabul.

As part of its new regional strategy announced in August 2017, Washington has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military in a bid to break the stalemate and force the militants to the negotiating table.

General John Nicholson, who leads US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan, said the Taliban have taken heavy casualties since US President Donald Trump authorised ramped-up air operations previous year, pointing to increasingly effective Afghan commando and regular Afghan army units.

But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with Kabul and insisted it would only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a "foreign occupying force". "The two Afghan leaders also reinforced that the recent Taliban peace offer without preconditions was genuine, and they are ready to embrace all who are willing to reconcile".

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