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Elements of the Taliban open to talks with Afghan government, says Mattis
13 March 2018, 01:42 | Erica Roy
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis AP
United States Defence Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered talks without preconditions with the Taliban insurgents last month, in what was seen by US officials as a major overture from Kabul.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Bakhtawer blamed Taliban insurgents, who have stepped up attacks in the province in recent months against Afghan security forces.
Mattis said the goal was to take advantage of Taliban fracturing to peel off insurgents exhausted of fighting and create a process that could incorporate some Taliban leaders.
President Ghani offered late last month to hold unconditional talks with the Taliban and recognize the group as a political party that would contest elections.
U.S. President Donald Trump in August announced an increase in the number of U.S. troops in the country to push back the resurgent Taliban.
"Right now the district headquarters and the area around it are under control of the Afghan security forces", Rahimi said, adding that "fighting is ongoing in three different parts of the district" as Afghan forces pursue the Taliban.
The Taliban last week described the Afghan government as "illegitimate" and its peace process efforts as "deceptive", in a statement calling for a boycott of an Islamic scholars' conference in Jakarta. The group ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when it was defeated by a U.S. -led troops in the wake of the September 11 attacks and it is fighting to restore Islamic rule in the country. "Not a military victory - the victory will be a political reconciliation".
In August previous year, 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.
He will also meet USA commanders and allied troops posted in the country, TOLO news reported.
Mattis said he had seen some positive indications from Islamabad, noting some Pakistani military operations along the border.
A day earlier, security forces recaptured a district headquarters in Farah, just hours after Taliban fighters overran police and administrative offices, killing eight police and wounding 10 others.
Mattis also said he had seen some changes in Pakistan's behavior since Trump blasted the country past year for harboring the Taliban.
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