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Mattis: We 'Look Toward a Victory In Afghanistan — Not a Military Victory'

03-13-2018

Defense Secretary James Mattis is in Afghanistan Tuesday to discuss the military campaign there and "peeling off" some members of the Taliban to pursue a peace deal with the Afghan government.

Mattis said he would be meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and top US commanders.

Last month, Ghani, hosting an international conference in Kabul, offered the Taliban a ceasefire and political recognition to come to the peace table without preconditions. 

"This is not saying that because the offer's been made it's going to be easy or smooth, but the offer's been made," Mattis told reporters. "There is interest we picked up on the Taliban side, even before the conference."

Some members of the Taliban may be willing to pursue peace, especially considering a fracturing in the group that has occurred over the last few years, he said.

"All wars come to an end," Mattis said. "You don't want to miss an opportunity because you weren't alert to the opportunity. So, you need to have that door open, even if you embrace the military pressure."

Mattis acknowledged that efforts to reconcile with the entire Taliban have been difficult. The effort right now, he explained, is to reach "those who are tired of fighting" and build it out from there.

"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan — not a military victory," he said. "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 war in Afghanistan is America's longest military conflict, having passed the 6,000-day mark on Monday.

Mattis commanded US troops in the southern part of the country in the opening weeks of the war that began one month after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. 

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Mattis: We 'Look Toward A Victory In Afghanistan — Not A Military Victory'

Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Afghanistan on Tuesday to meet senior U.S. and Afghan officials.

Mattis is discussing both the military campaign and "peeling off" some members of the Taliban to pursue a peace deal with the Afghan government.

Mattis said he would be meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and top U.S. commanders.

Last month President Ghani, hosting an international conference in Kabul, offered the Taliban a ceasefire and political recognition to come to the peace table without preconditions. 

"This is not saying that because the offer's been made it's going to be easy or smooth but the offer's been made," Mattis told reporters. "There is interest we picked up on the Taliban side, even before the conference."

Some members of the Taliban may be willing to pursue peace, especially considering a fracturing in the group that has occurred over the last few years, he said.

"All wars come to an end," Mattis said. "You don't want to miss an opportunity because you weren't alert to the opportunity. So, you need to have that door open, even if you embrace the military pressure."

Mattis acknowledged that efforts to reconcile with the entire Taliban have been difficult. The effort right now, he said, is to reach "those who are tired of fighting" and build it out from there.

"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.

Afghanistan is America's longest war, having passed the 6,000-day mark yesterday.

Mattis commanded U.S. troops in the southern part of the country in the opening weeks of the war that began one month after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. 

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