Monday, 12 November, 2018

US Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Afghan capital

Indonesia Ulema Council chief Muhyiddin Junaidi right with an MUI official Amirsyah Tambunan Indonesia Ulema Council chief Muhyiddin Junaidi right with an MUI official Amirsyah Tambunan
Melinda Barton | 13 March, 2018, 13:56

"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.

Mattis is scheduled to meet Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to exchange views on matters relating to mutual interests, including the war on terror and the peace process in Afghanistan. The insurgent group has said it is prepared to negotiate, but only with the United States and not with the Kabul government.

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.

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. That may be a bridge too far to expect.

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

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

The United States has boosted the number of US troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000, and stepped up air strikes in the country. Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possible - defined as a political settlement with the Taliban.

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.

Mattis said the goal was to convince the Taliban that they could not win, which would hopefully push them towards reconciliation.

Uzbekistan is set to host an Afghan peace conference later this month, where participants are expected to call for direct talks between the militant group and Ghani's government.

USA defence secretary Jim Mattis believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible, though not necessarily on the battlefield but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the country's government.

Mr Mattis has said that the USA goal is to enable Afghan forces to weaken the Taliban to the point where the Afghans can manage their own security.