US Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Afghan capital

Taliban likely to miss Afghan peace meeting, says host Uzbekistan

Mattis In Surprise Kabul Visit Says Sees Some Taliban Interest In Peace Talks

"The Anardara district headquarters is under the insurgents' control and right now, an intense battle is going on all around the district center and government offices", said Bakhtawer.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in the Afghan capital to take stock of the war, with emphasis on prospects for drawing at least some Taliban fighters into reconciling with the Afghan government.

The Taliban is likely to miss an Afghan peace conference at which participants are set to call for direct talks between the militant group and the government of President Ashraf Ghani, the foreign ministry in Uzbekistan said on Monday.

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

The UN said on Tuesday that 30,672 people have been displaced in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict.

Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they can not win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation. "It's a country whose own people and their own security forces handle law enforcement and any threats... certainly with global support for some years to come", he said.

"It's all working to achieve a political reconciliation, not a military victory", Mattis said.

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

The Taliban has previously offered to hold talks on a possible peace agreement, but only directly with the United States, which Mattis rejects.

In August a year ago, US President Donald Trump asserted that his administration would take a more aggressive approach to deal with the Afghan conflict and to pull out US troops from Afghanistan.

Mattis said the jump in attacks on civilians was an indication that a pressured Taliban is unable to conduct broader, ground-taking operations.

"Afghan security forces have been stretched thin as fighting escalated after winter ended, " the United Nations said.

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