Kabul, March 13 (IANS) US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrived in the Afghan capital on Tuesday on a surprise visit to meet Afghan authorities and commanders of NATO and US forces in the country.
The visit by the Pentagon chief comes at a time when the Afghan government is actively looking to broker peace talks with the Taliban. Mattis will meet Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani to exchange views on the war on terror and the peace process in Afghanistan, local television channel 1TV reported.
“US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis has arrived for a periodic visit,” Tom Gresback, Public Affairs Director at the Resolute Support Mission of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Efe news.
Mattis will meet with the NATO command and the Afghan authorities.
His visit followed Ghani’s offer of non-conditional peace talks and political recognition to the Taliban, although the rebels are yet to respond to the offer.
Ghani’s announcement came days before the insurgent group had proposed to hold talks with the US, after refusing talk offers for years.
During his last visit to Afghanistan in September, Mattis had assured local authorities the US would not abandon Afghanistan to a “ruthless enemy” and underlined US President Donald Trump’s decision to increase troop deployment in the country.
Afghanistan is going through one of its bloodiest phases after the end in 2015 of the NATO mission, which, however, continues to be present in the country to train Afghan forces.