AVA- U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is in the Afghan capital Kabul on a surprise visit to the war-weary country that comes as the Trump administration attempts to secure a negotiated peace with the Taliban to end the 17-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The U.S. command in Afghanistan confirmed Friday's visit but offered no substantive details. Mattis, who is accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford, is expected to meet with Afghan, U.S. and NATO military commanders, as well as President Ashraf Ghani.
Mattis' arrival comes just days after a suicide bomber killed 21 people and amid a fresh round of insider attacks that claimed the life of one American service member and eight local police earlier this week.
Washington appears to be ramping up efforts for a negotiated end to Afghanistan's war. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad, as Washington's new point man for Afghan reconciliation. Khalilzad, a controversial figure in the region, is a former envoy to Afghanistan.
"We have more indications that reconciliation is no longer just a shimmer out there, no longer just a mirage," Mattis said this week, according to Reuters. "It now has some framework, there's some open lines of communication."
"The most important work that has to be done is beginning the political process and reconciliation," Dunford explained to reporters traveling with him, "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."
The degree to which the US is actually making progress in Afghanistan remains unclear, especially given recent developments which seem to point to a deteriorating security situation in the country.