US Defense Secretary James Mattis In Kabul

US Defense Secretary James Mattis In Kabul

The group ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when it was defeated by a U.S. -led troops in the wake of the September 11 attacks and it is fighting to restore Islamic rule in the country.

The United States is picking up signs of interest from Taleban elements in exploring the possibility of talks with Kabul to end the more than 16-year-old war, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday (March 13), as he made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.

The UN said the highest number of displacements was in Kunduz and Takhar provinces.

President Ghani offered late last month to hold unconditional talks with the Taliban and recognize the group as a political party that would contest elections.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis said.

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

The United States previous year stepped up its military assistance to Afghanistan, notably through a sharp increase in air strikes, with the aim of breaking a stalemate with the insurgents and forcing them to the negotiating table.

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.


Speaking to reporters, Mattis says that victory is still possible, meaning a political settlement with the Taliban could be in the cards.

More than 3,000 additional USA forces have also arrived in Afghanistan to boost the training and advising of local troops.

As part of the so-called South Asia Strategy, President Donald Trump past year ordered the increased bombing of Taliban targets - including drug-making labs and training camps.

Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.

Mattis said the jump in attacks on civilians was an indication that a pressured Taliban is unable to conduct broader, ground-taking operations.

They have offered to directly talk to the U.S. about a possible peace agreement.

The Afghan security forces were able to stop some attacks, Mattis said, though he noted he wanted to see them shift to a more "offensive mindset" in the coming months.

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