US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

Tuesday, 13 Mar, 2018

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Kabul on March 13 for an unannounced visit to take stock of the war and the prospects for drawing at least some Taliban fighters into peace talks with the Afghan government. "Not a military victory, 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", Mattis added.

Ghani's peace plan includes eventually recognising the Taliban as a political party.

But Mattis said some insurgent leaders have expressed an interest in discussions.

Mattis' comments could signal a softening of Washington's stance to the talks.

Mattis planned to meet with General John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

"The Anardara district headquarters is under the insurgents' control and right now, an intense battle is going on all around the district center and government offices", said Bakhtawer.

The group controlled Afghanistan until 2001, when it was overthrown by the US-led coalition that invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks.

Previous peace offers to the militants were refused.

It marks Mattis' third visit to the country, where about 11,000 USA troops are stationed.

The security situation in the country remains tenuous, with both the Taliban and other groups blamed for a string of deadly bombings and attacks in Kabul.

In January, Taliban gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people.

The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility, with Taliban spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi saying in a statement to the media that the group was behind the attack.

Data released by the United States in January showed that the Taliban's hold on Afghanistan is strengthening.