Global News

Taliban Likely To Miss Afghan Peace Meeting, Says Uzbekistan

Taliban Likely To Miss Afghan Peace Meeting, Says Uzbekistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered talks without preconditions with the Taliban insurgents last month, in what was seen by USA officials as a major overture from Kabul.

The United States past year stepped up its military assistance to Afghanistan, notably through a sharp increase in air strikes, with the aim of breaking a stalemate with the insurgents and forcing them to the negotiating table.

But Mattis said some insurgent leaders have expressed an interest in discussions.

Ghani, during a meeting with Mattis, described the new USA strategy as a game changer, allowing Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness.

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

"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.

In Monday's assault, the Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack and stormed the district headquarters in Anardara, which they were able to hold on to for a few hours before Afghan reinforcements arrived.

It marks Mattis' third visit to the country, where about 11,000 US troops are stationed.

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"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan", he said.

As part of the so-called South Asia Strategy, President Donald Trump previous year ordered the increased bombing of Taliban targets-including drug-making labs and training camps. Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.

The Taliban, Afghanistan's biggest militant group, claimed 472 attacks in January alone, the Washington-based terrorism research group TRAC said-an astonishing number given that the traditional fighting season does not usually start until freezing temperatures have subsided in the spring.

Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the US position that the talks should be led by Kabul.

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

The insurgents have recently stepped up attacks against Afghan security forces across Farah province.

Mattis also said he had seen some changes in Pakistan's behavior since Trump blasted the country previous year for harboring the Taliban.


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