Elements in Taliban open to peace talks: Mattis

14 March, 2018, 06:19 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • US-Afghanistan-20

In his meeting with the visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, he said the new US Policy has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions.

Mattis said we shouldn't expect peace moves from the Taliban en masse, but that some might be open to talks. Mattis said he had seen some positive indications from Islamabad, noting some Pakistani military operations along the border.

The strategy, Mattis said, is to "peel off" those militant elements who may be exhausted of fighting, while continuing to pursue a peace process with the Taliban leadership.

Mattis said he would meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Last month, Ghani invited the Taliban to begin peace talks without preconditions. "But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government", he said.

However, Mattis says a diplomatic solution must be between Kabul and the Taliban. While the Taliban expressed interest in reaching a political settlement, they have yet to respond to Ghani's offer.

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


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

As part of an effort to bolster Afghan fighting strength, the U.S.in recent weeks sent an Army group of about 800 soldiers, accompanied by several hundred support troops, to advise the Afghans closer to the front lines.

The US has a renewed focus on Afghanistan after years of drawdowns under former US president Barack Obama, and talk by top US generals of "not winning" and a "stalemate" in the seemingly intractable conflict. 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.

Mattis, though, said that "right now, we want to go by, with and through the Afghan-led process". Put another way - the aim is to convince the insurgents they can not win on the battlefield, thus driving them to reconcile with the Afghan government.

The secretary's visit comes shortly after the Afghan government said it would be willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a ceasefire with the militant group.

"This is not saying that because the offer's been made it's going to be easy or smooth, but the offer's been made", Mattis told reporters.

The insurgent group has said it is prepared to negotiate, but only with the U.S. and not with the Kabul government. While he forecast that Afghan forces this year will continue to develop offensive combat power, he predicted the Taliban will "threaten Afghan stability, undermine public confidence by conducting intermittent high-profile attacks in urban areas", increase its influence in rural areas, and threaten district centers.

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