Signs that Taleban wants to end Afghanistan war: Mattis

Katrina Barker
March 14, 2018

Mattis said Tuesday he believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible - not necessarily on the battlefield but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the Afghan government.

The Taliban, Afghanistan's biggest militant group, claimed 472 attacks in January alone, the Washington-based terrorism research group TRAC said - an astonishing number given that the traditional fighting season does not usually start until freezing temperatures have subsided in the spring.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has also piled pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens on its side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Mattis stressed that the military campaign was aimed at driving the insurgents toward a political reconciliation, as opposed to an outright battlefield defeat. "The victory will be a political reconciliation".

Ghani proposed talks with no preconditions with the Taliban last month, in what the Reuters news agency says "was seen by US officials as a major overture from Kabul".

Since past year, US forces have increased strikes on Taliban targets, and provided additional assistance to Afghanistan's military. But he said it was still too much to expect the whole Taliban to do so.

With U.S. support, the Afghan government has made a surprising new peace offer to the Taliban, only to immediately run into a wall.

However, the insurgents, who seized a district centre in western Afghanistan earlier this week have given no public signs of accepting Mr Ghani's offer.

Ghani recently offered the Taliban recognition as a political party, freeing of their prisoners and removal of sanctions in return for end to fighting, shunning ties with foreign terrorists and respecting the Afghan Constitution.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis told reporters before landing in Kabul, saying the signs dated back several months.

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

Taliban fighters control large parts of the country and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians are being killed every year, with a divided Kabul government unable to take effective action.

They have offered to talk directly to the United States about a possible peace agreement. Mattis noted some positive indications from Islamabad, including Pakistani military operations along the border.

US intelligence officials are predicting the war will remain stalemated as the traditionally most intensive fighting season begins this spring.

Mattis, though, said that "right now, we want to go by, with and through the Afghan-led process".

Mattis was speaking to reporters before landing in Kabul for an unannounced visit there during an worldwide trip.

As part of the so-called South Asia Strategy, President Donald Trump a year ago ordered the increased bombing of Taliban targets - including drug-making labs and training camps. These and other moves boosted the number of USA troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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