US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

Mattis is scheduled to meet Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to exchange views on matters relating to mutual interests, including the war on terror and the peace process in Afghanistan.

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. The Taliban also says that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.

"Right now we want the Afghans to lead and to provide the substance of the reconciliation effort", Mattis said.

The insurgent group has said it was prepared to negotiate, but only with the USA and not with the Kabul government.

The UN said on Tuesday that 30,672 people have been displaced in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict.

The US has a renewed focus on Afghanistan after years of drawdowns under former president Barack Obama and talk by top US generals of "not winning" and of a "stalemate" in the seemingly intractable conflict.

"The victory will be a political reconciliation".

US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit
US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

The U.S. has increased its military presence and activities in Afghanistan under a more aggressive policy ordered by President Donald Trump, boosting the number of forces from 8,500 to about 14,000.

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

The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down nearly immediately.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it began, according to a media statement from Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman.

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

They said that while Afghan forces are getting better, the Taliban is likely to threaten Afghan stability in 2018.

This is Mattis's second visit to the war-torn country after he last visited in September.

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