Picking up Afghan Taliban interest in peace talks, says Jim Mattis amid surprise Kabul tour

  • We will also work on the list of freeing Taliban prisoners: Ashraf Ghani

KABUL – US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has expressed that the United States was picking up signs of interest from Taliban in exploring the possibility of talks to put an end to the war started in 2001.

The US official, who landed in Afghanistan in an unannounced manner, expressed that such signs date back several months.

“We’ve had some groups of Taliban who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking,” he claimed, signalling a shift in US policy.

The militant group and the government of President Ashraf Ghani are invited to attend the March 26-27 meeting in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, to look for ways to ensure peace in Afghanistan, however, Taliban have made no application to attend the event.

On the other hand, Ghani is set to show up along with US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Moreover, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey and UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto would also be sharing the forum.

Afghan President Ghani offers initiating unconditional negotiations with Taliban

Last month, Ghani expressed his readiness to initiate negotiations with Taliban for a durable peace in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The Afghan president asserted that ceasefire must be agreed upon with the Taliban adding that peace needs to be sought with the Taliban in order for them to become a political group.

“The Afghan government must be accepting and we will also work on the list of freeing Taliban prisoners”, he opined as he opened the second Kabul Process meeting in the Afghan capital.