US Defense Secretary Mattis makes unannounced visit to Afghan capital
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on an unannounced visit.
The visit on Tuesday comes amid talk of dialog between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group.
Speaking shortly before arriving in Kabul, Mattis said Taliban was “interested” in talking to the Afghan government.
This is while the Taliban have so far refused to talk to Kabul, despite an offer of direct dialog from President Ashraf Ghani.
Mattis claimed, nevertheless, that some militant elements were open to negotiations.
“It may not be that the whole Taliban comes over in one fell swoop, that would be a bridge too far, but there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government,” he said, without explaining who those elements were or how he knew about their alleged interest.
Ghani has even offered to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political group if the militant outfit recognized the Afghan government.
Before Ghani made his offer, the militants had in an offer of their own called for direct talks with the US to find a “peaceful solution” for the conflict in Afghanistan.
Mattis said that Washington wanted Kabul to lead any “reconciliation effort.”
US-led forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled a ruling Taliban regime some 17 years ago. That ongoing war has failed to bring stability to the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign forces. A recent survey found that the militants were active in two-thirds of the country and were fully controlling four percent of it.