US Defence Secretary arrives in Afghanistan

US Defence Secretary arrives in Afghanistan

The UN said on Tuesday that 30,672 people have been displaced in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict.

The United States is picking up signs of interest from Taliban elements in exploring the possibility of talks to end the more than 16-year-old war, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis says. "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.

The defence secretary, who commanded U.S. troops as a Marine general in southern Afghanistan during the war with the Taliban in 2001, said that getting the militants on board for reconciliation may be a bridge too far.

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

The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down nearly immediately.

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

Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possible - defined as a political settlement with the Taliban.

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He will also meet USA commanders and allied troops posted in the country, TOLO news reported.

Ghani's offer of peace talks comes as civilian casualties have soared in recent months, with the Taliban increasingly targeting towns and cities in response to Trump's new and more aggressive military policy.

Afghanistan has been ravaged by a series of deadly terrorist attacks in the last few months, which has claimed over 150 lives, particularly in Kabul.

In August a year ago, US President Donald Trump asserted that his administration would take a more aggressive approach to deal with the Afghan conflict and to pull out US troops from Afghanistan.

Mattis said he had seen some positive indications from Islamabad, noting some Pakistani military operations along the border.

"Afghan security forces have been stretched thin as fighting escalated after winter ended, " the United Nations said.

Mattis previously visited Afghanistan in April and September 2017.

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