US Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Afghan capital

Taliban

Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they can not win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation.

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Kabul in an unannounced visit, Tom Gresback, the spokesman of U.S. and NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, told newsmen.

On February 28, Afghan President Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.

The United States a year ago 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.

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"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan", he said. "It's a country whose own people and their own security forces handle law enforcement and any threats... certainly with worldwide support for some years to come", he said.

"The victory will be a political reconciliation".

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

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.

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Approximately 14,000 American forces are now in Afghanistan, up from a low of about 8,500 when Obama left office.

The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility, with Taliban spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi saying in a statement to the media that the group was behind the attack.

On Monday, Afghan forces battled to recapture a district centre in the western province of Farah, after Taliban fighters seized the town in an overnight attack.

This is Mattis's second visit to the war-torn country after he last visited in September.

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