Mattis in Kabul, says Taliban officials interested in peace talks

By Middle East Affairs

In an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Taliban officials are expressing interest in speaking with Afghan leaders, AFP reports.

The Afghan government had recently announced plans to host peace talks with the Taliban but hadn’t received a formal response.

“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,” Mattis said in the AFP story.

The Taliban previously said it would only negotiate with the United States because the Afghan government’s tactics were “deceptive.”

Under the Afghan government’s plan, the Taliban would be recognized as a political party.

Mattis told reporters that America victory is near in Afghanistan after more than 16 years of conflict.

President Donald Trump last year ordered the increased bombing of Taliban targets and sent more than 3,000 U.S. forces to train and advise local troops.

“Trump’s strategy has been a ‘game changer’ for Afghanistan,” Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani told Mattis in a meeting and AFP reports.

 

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