Mattis holds talks with Ghani, Abdullah

KABUL (Sarzameen News)- US Defense Secretary James Mattis held discussions with President Ashraf Ghani during his trip to Kabul on Tuesday.

In a message of gratitude to the US for its efforts in Afghanistan, Ghani also paid tribute to Gold Star families – families of fallen US service members. He said their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

CEO Abdullah Abdullah, National Security Council Chief Mohammad Hanif Atmar and other high-ranking officials also attended the Ghani-Mattis meeting.

Addressing all those present, Ghani said: “Let me begin with the tribute to your fallen heroes. And please convey our gratitude as a nation, as a state to the Gold Star families. You spend a lot of time with them and their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

He also discussed the peace offer that has been made to the Taliban and the offer of comprehensive talks to Pakistan. The president said these offers had been made possible because of the Trump Administration’s South Asia strategy.

Because of the game-changing nature of the strategy we, the government of national unity, offered peace to the Taliban and a comprehensive dialogue to Pakistan. These two steps could have only been taken in the context of the South Asia strategy, Ghani said at the meeting.

The US defense secretary’s visit to Kabul comes two weeks after the Kabul Process conference in which the Afghan government announced a peace offer to the Taliban.

Addressing reporters, on Tuesday Mattis meanwhile said the United States is picking up signs of interest from Taliban elements in exploring the possibility of talks with Kabul to end the more than 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

There is interest that we’ve picked up from the Taliban side,” Mattis told reporters before landing in Kabul, as quoted by Reuters. “We have had some groups of Taliban – small groups – who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking.

Meanwhile, an Afghan official and an analyst criticized Kabul and Washington’s war policies.

Once it (government) announces that it will not talk to the Taliban and will fight the group, but then it changes around and the president (Ashraf Ghani) says … it fights against them and in another point he says that government will talk to them,” said Ahmadullah Alizai, former governor of Badghis.

Yes, a faction of the Taliban is ready to join the (peace) process. This faction of the Taliban has, in some way, direct relations with Americans, Hizb-e-Islami and with other groups which are under pressure,” said Maqdam Amin, a political affairs analyst.

Despite that, the deputy head of the High Peace Council Atta-urrahman Saleem stressed the need for further pressure on the Taliban in order to bring the group to the peace tables.

Bring pressure on the group which does not accept peace until they are prepared to accept the Almighty Allah’s order which is peace,” he said, referring to the peace process with the Taliban.

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