US Defense Secretary meets President Ghani

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(Kabul) – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during an unannounced visit to Kabul to discuss prospects for peace talks with the Taliban and the country’s deteriorating security situation ahead of upcoming elections.

Mattis was accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford, who earlier in the week had gone to Islamabad with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a mission to reset testy relations with Pakistan’s new government.

The United States is a year into its latest attempt to step up pressure on the Taliban by increasing air strikes and sending thousands more troops to train and advise the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

Meeting Ghani in his presidential palace, the U.S. officials discussed progress to end the 17-year-old war, which has become America’s longest conflict.

“They discussed peace process, positive impact of the South Asia strategy, reforms in ANDSF, upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, counter-terrorism and dialogue with Pakistan,” Ghani’s official spokesman said in a tweet after the meeting.

Mattis and Dunford also met U.S. Army General Scott Miller assumed command of NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday.

As yet, there is little sign yet of Afghanistan becoming more secure and stable before a parliamentary election next month and a presidential election in April.

During recent weeks, the Taliban killed hundreds of soldiers and police and briefly seized the strategic city of Ghazni in a high profile assault.