Mattis Says Some Taliban Factions Might Be Interested In Peace Talks

US drone strike kills six terrorists near Pak Afghan border

The multi-pronged strategy includes military pressure, political pressure and those applied through regional partners like Pakistan, US Central Command Commander Gen Joseph Votel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.

The insurgents have so far given no formal response to Kabul's offer for negotiations, but Mattis said some Taliban leaders have expressed an interest in the discussions.

Mattis said the goal with the talks is to reinforce the message to Taliban that they can not win the war. "It may not be that the whole Taliban comes over in one fell swoop".

Speaking to reporters before landing in Kabul, Mattis said some small groups of Taliban have come forward wanting talks with the Afghan government.

When asked by reporters if the US should talk with the Taliban, Mattis said talks with the Taliban should be held by the Afghan government.

In his meeting with the visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, he said the new US Policy has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions.

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

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month offered talks without preconditions to the Taliban insurgents, who have previously said they would talk only with Washington about a possible peace agreement.

The Taliban have waged an insurgency to restore Islamic rule since being overthrown by the US -led coalition in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Mattis described the approach as peeling off fighters exhausted from a war that's gone on for more than 16 years.

An attack on a Kabul hotel killed more than 30 people in January and the attack on the streets of the Kabul later in the week claimed the lives of more than 100 people.

Last month President Ghani, hosting an global conference in Kabul, offered the Taliban a ceasefire and political recognition to come to the peace table without preconditions. While the Taliban expressed interest in reaching a political settlement, they have yet to respond to Ghani's offer.

Last month, Ghani, hosting an worldwide conference in Kabul, offered the Taliban a ceasefire and political recognition to come to the peace table without preconditions.

"We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort", he said.

The insurgent group has said it is prepared to negotiate, but only with the U.S. and not with the Kabul government.

Mattis commanded United States troops in the southern part of the country in the opening weeks of the war that began one month after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

While the United States has been stepping up battlefield pressure, Afghanistan's global partners have sought to build diplomatic support from neighboring countries to push the militants to the negotiating table.

U.S. intelligence officials are predicting the war will remain stalemated as the traditionally most intensive fighting season begins this spring.

More than 3,000 additional U.S. forces have also arrived in Afghanistan to boost the training and advising of local troops. The US also shifted A-10 attack planes and other aircraft from striking ISIS in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan as part of Trump's new approach.

Mattis acknowledged that efforts to reconcile with the entire Taliban have been hard.

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