Mattis visits Afghanistan

Source:AFP Published: 2018/9/7 23:13:40

Adds to efforts to include Taliban at negotiations


US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with top Afghan leaders during an unannounced visit to Kabul on Friday, adding his weight to a flurry of diplomatic efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

His trip comes a little more than a year after President Donald Trump unveiled a revamped strategy for Afghanistan that saw him commit thousands of additional US forces to the country on an open-ended basis.

Mattis, on his fourth visit to the war-torn country since becoming defense chief in January 2017, has met with President Ashraf Ghani and the new US commander for American and NATO forces, General Scott Miller.

His arrival in Kabul comes at a sensitive time in the 17-year war. The grinding conflict has seen little progress by Afghan or US forces against the Taliban, the country's largest militant group.

Six US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, the most recent happening on Monday in an apparent insider attack.

Ghani told Mattis that preventing so-called "green-on-blue" attacks, in which Afghan soldiers turn their weapons on international troops with whom they are working, was a "top national priority."

Afghan and international players have been ratcheting up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, which was toppled from power by US-led forces in 2001.

An unprecedented ceasefire in June followed by talks between US officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July fuelled hopes that negotiations could bring an end to the fighting.

But recent spate of attacks by the Taliban and the smaller but potent Islamic State group that left hundreds of people dead has severely dented that optimism.

A twin bomb attack on a wrestling club in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul on Wednesday was just the latest in a long line of devastating assaults, killing at least 26 people and wounding 91.

The attack underscored the challenges facing Afghanistan's beleaguered security forces.

Trump's strategy, announced in August 2017, increased the US troop presence in the country and now includes a renewed push to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.



Posted in: MID-EAST

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