US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul on unannounced visit

AP License N  A Created 2018:03:09 13:10:32

But Mattis said some insurgent leaders have expressed an interest in discussions. The former Marine general said it "may be a bridge too far" to expect the Islamic insurgent force to sit down at the negotiating table "in one fell swoop". 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.

Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the USA position that the talks should be led by Kabul.

Mattis said the ultimate victory in Afghanistan will be a "political reconciliation" between Kabul and the Taliban, with a country capable of handling its own security.

The UN said on Tuesday that 30,672 people have been displaced in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict. "It's a country whose own people and their own security forces handle law enforcement and any threats... certainly with worldwide support for some years to come", he said.

More than 3,000 additional U.S. forces have also arrived in Afghanistan to boost the training and advising of local troops.

U.S. President Donald Trump in August announced an increase in the number of U.S. troops in the country to push back the resurgent Taliban.

The Taliban has previously offered to hold talks on a possible peace agreement, but only directly with the United States, which Mattis rejects.

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.

But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with the Western-backed government, which they say is illegitimate.

Mattis's surprise Afghan visit, his third as Pentagon chief, was kept under tight wraps after a security incident during his last trip in September, when insurgents shelled Kabul's airport hours after he arrived.

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