Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan

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.

The insurgents have so far given no formal response to Kabul's offer for negotiations, but Mattis said some insurgent leaders have expressed an interest in the discussions.

The visit comes as the United States injects new resources into the stalemated war.

The United States has in the past also expressed hope of "peeling off" elements of the Taleban and it was unclear how this new effort might be different.

Mattis said the goal was to convince the Taleban insurgents that they can not win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation.

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

The insurgent group has said it is prepared to negotiate, but only with the United States and not with the Kabul government.

"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side", Mattis said.

The Taliban urged Washington last month to begin talks to end nearly 17 years of war in Afghanistan, which suggests they want to explore dialogue.

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.

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

Afghanistan has been mired in war since a USA -led campaign that ousted the Taliban from power in response to the September 11, 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks in the United States, and its harboring of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Mattis said the jump in attacks on civilians was an indication that a pressured Taliban is unable to conduct broader, ground-taking operations.

Outlining his goals for the trip, Mattis said he wanted to get an assessment of both the re-tooled USA war effort as well as the reconciliation efforts. "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.

Reconciliation, Mattis said, was "almost an equal priority of my interest going in".

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