US defense secretary makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

Kabul US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived Tuesday on a surprise visit to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan authorities and commanders of the US forces and NATO in the country.

The visit by the defense secretary comes at a time when the Afghan government is actively looking to broker peace talks with the Taliban.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him shortly before arriving in Kabul, Mattis said he believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible � not necessarily on the battlefield but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the Afghan government, The New York Times reported.

"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan," he said, adding, "Not a military victory the victory will be a political reconciliation" with the Taliban, which has achieved a stalemate in recent years and shown little interest in conceding to the Kabul government.

The defense secretary said getting the Taliban to reconcile en masse may be "a bridge too far". So the emphasis is on drawing in Taliban elements piecemeal. He described this approach as an effort to "start peeling off those who are tired of fighting," after more than 16 years of war.

Source: International Islamic News Agency