Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan

Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan

Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possible - defined as a political settlement with the Taliban.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says small factions of Taliban forces fighting the U.S. -backed Afghan government have expressed an interest in negotiating an end to the 16-year war.

Mattis is scheduled to meet Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to exchange views on matters relating to mutual interests, including the war on terror and the peace process in Afghanistan. Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed process he said could lead to talks.

The United States previous 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.

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.

He will also meet United States commanders and allied troops posted in the country, TOLO news reported.

"Right now we want the Afghans to lead and to provide the substance of the reconciliation effort", Mattis said.

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"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan".

The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down nearly immediately.

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.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it began, according to a media statement from Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman.

Afghan security forces recaptured a district headquarters in western Farah province on Monday, just hours after the Taliban overrun the police and administrative offices, killing eight policemen, a spokesman said.

Mattis previously visited Afghanistan in April and September 2017.

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