US Defense Secretary James Mattis who arrived in an unannounced visit to Kabul on Friday held talks with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah at the Presidential Palace, the president’s office said in a statement.
The Afghan and US officials discussed peace process, impact of US South Asia strategy, reforms in Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, counter-terrorism and dialogue with Pakistan.
In this visit, Mattis commended the National Unity Government’s efforts in different sectors particularly counter-terrorism, reforms and fighting against corruption, the statement said. He also commended Afghan forces’ “bravery” in defending the country.
Mattis said the US government and people will stay with Afghan people and government until there is lasting peace and stability in the country. He said US will continue its cooperation in different sectors including security, economy and strengthening of bilateral relations with Afghanistan.
President Ghani meanwhile appreciated US’s cooperation in different sectors to Afghanistan and said the Afghan government and the people want lasting peace and that they thank the US for its cooperation in this respect.
Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Army Gen. Scott Miller, the new commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan during their Kabul visit.
Miller assumed command of NATO’s Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan on Sunday.
Speaking with reporters this week, Mattis said he was hopeful about peace talks with the Taliban.
“Right now, we have more indications that reconciliation is no longer just a shimmer out there, no longer just a mirage,” Mattis said.
“It now has some framework. There’s some open lines of communication,” he added.
This comes after last month a top US State Department official met with Taliban officials in Qatar to lay the groundwork for broader peace talks.
The US government has pointed toward the Taliban’s accepting a temporary truce in June as a sign of why the talks should be viewed with hope.
“The most important work that has to be done is beginning the political process and reconciliation,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him, as quoted in NBC News report.
“What we are trying to do in the military dimension is convince the Taliban that they cannot win on the battlefield and that they must engage in a peace process,” Dunford said.
The last visit of US Defense Secretary James Mattis to Kabul was in March.