Mattis Makes Surprise Stop for Talks With New U.S. Commander, Afghan Officials

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in the Afghan capital on Friday in an unannounced visit, amid upheaval in the senior ranks of American and Afghan officials waging the 17-year war against the Taliban and other Islamist militants.

Mr. Mattis, accompanied by Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was to hold meetings with senior Afghan officials and with Army Gen. Austin Miller, the new commander of American-led international forces here, as well as hold a town-hall style forum with troops.

Peace talks with the Taliban, the country’s largest insurgency group, were expected to be high on the agenda of discussions between Mr. Mattis and Afghan officials.

In July, U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives met in the Gulf state of Qatar to discuss a possible framework for talks aimed at ending the war. However, a series of devastating Taliban attacks last month and the insurgency’s refusal to reciprocate Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a three-month cease-fire have slowed momentum for further discussions.

Still, while the war against the Taliban and Islamic State’s local branch has expanded since President Trump announced his rejuvenated Afghanistan strategy little more than a year ago, Mr. Mattis made clear this week that the prospect of talks with the Taliban hasn’t evaporated. (Read more from “Mattis Makes Surprise Stop for Talks With New U.S. Commander, Afghan Officials” HERE)

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