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U.S. detecting some Taliban interest in Afghan peace talks - Mattis
13 March 2018, 01:45 | Devin Moran
Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan
U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Kabul in an unannounced visit, Tom Gresback, the spokesman of U.S. and NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, told newsmen.
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani recently offered a comprehensive peace deal to the Taliban, but the militants have not responded and have increased their attacks.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Bakhtawer blamed Taliban insurgents, who have stepped up attacks in the province in recent months against Afghan security forces. Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed process he said could lead to talks.
Ghani, during a meeting with Mattis, described the new USA strategy as a game changer, allowing Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness. While the United States military says the strategy has hit the Taliban hard, they still control or contest much of the country.
"Right now we want the Afghans to lead and to provide the substance of the reconciliation effort", Mattis said.
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". "The victory will be a political reconciliation".
He will also meet USA commanders and allied troops posted in the country, TOLO news reported.
In August past year, US President Donald Trump asserted that his administration would take a more aggressive approach to deal with the Afghan conflict and to pull out US troops from Afghanistan. Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.
Mattis said he had seen some positive indications from Islamabad, noting some Pakistani military operations along the border.
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.
Mattis also said he had seen some changes in Pakistan's behavior since Trump blasted the country past year for harboring the Taliban.
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