Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan
13 March, 2018, 13:58
Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they can not win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation.
Mattis flew into the war-torn city two weeks after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban. The insurgent group has said it is prepared to negotiate, but only with the United States and not with the Kabul government.
USA defence secretary Jim Mattis believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible, though not necessarily on the battlefield but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the country's government.
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.
"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan", he said.
The March 13 visit, which was not announced in advance due to security concerns, comes as the United States is putting new resources into the more than 16-year-old war. However, he added that it would not be a military victory but "the victory will be a political reconciliation" with the Taliban, which has achieved a stalemate in recent years and shown little interest in conceding to the Kabul government. "The victory will be a political reconciliation". These and other moves boosted the number of United States troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500 to a total of more than 14,000. Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.
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.
"We've had some groups of Taliban - small groups - who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking", Mattis said.
Mattis said he had seen some positive indications from Islamabad, noting some Pakistani military operations along the border.
Mattis's surprise Afghan visit, his third as Pentagon chief, was kept under tight wraps after a security incident during his last trip in September, when insurgents shelled Kabul's airport hours after he arrived.
On Monday, Afghan forces battled to recapture a district centre in the western province of Farah, after Taliban fighters seized the town in an overnight attack.
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