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Mattis makes surprise Afghanistan visit to talk about peace with Taliban

Mattis makes surprise Afghanistan visit to talk about peace with Taliban”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani described the new USA strategy allowing Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban as a game changer.

Last month in an open letter Taliban reached out to the U.S.in hopes of ending the war.

Two weeks ago, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered direct talks with the Taliban with no preconditions.

On Tuesday, the US Secretary of Defense said that he had a strong conviction that victory was still possible in the 16-year long war in Afghanistan.

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

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As part of its new strategy for Afghanistan, 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.

Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office. Afterward, he visited with Ghani and other senior Afghan officials at the Presidential Palace. In a proposed trade-off for peace, Ghani offered the Taliban a chance to be recognized as a legitimate political party and withdraw their names from worldwide sanctions lists. The Pentagon also has started to deploy additional US military advisers to fan out across the countryside with Afghan troops.

Mattis comments should soften President Trump's stance on refusing to talk with Taliban who for decades have repeatedly terrorized people with violence. The insurgents have so far given no formal response to Kabul's offer for negotiations. Neighboring countries are doubtful about America's commitment to a political resolution.

In a bid to break the stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table, the USA has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military, sent more troops over and increased air strikes. The number of Afghan combat deaths also is withheld by the Afghan government.

He said the positive signals had come from small numbers of insurgents.

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However, Mohammed Kamrul Islam, a spokesman for US-Bangla Airlines, said the governments of both Nepal and Bangladesh need to "launch a fair investigation and find the reason behind the accident".

The Taliban has said it will talk to the United States, but not the Western-backed Afghan government the insurgents see as illegitimate.

USA intelligence agencies are taking a less optimistic view of the war's likely path in 2018.

The military is battling a Taliban insurgency while also fighting the Islamic State group's gradual expansion in the country's north and its regular attacks in the capital Kabul. 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.

The Taliban now controls its largest swath of territory in the county since 2015.

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