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Pentagon Chief Mattis Makes Unannounced Trip To Afghanistan


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit. He's there to talk about talks, part of the U.S. effort to facilitate a dialogue with the Taliban in hopes of reaching a settlement to the 17-year-long war. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: So far, all efforts to prod the Taliban into negotiating an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan have yielded modest results. Bilal Sarwary is a freelance journalist. He's also running for parliament. I spoke to him over the phone from Kabul. He says, Mattis comes at a critical time.

BILAL SARWARY: The Taliban basically have the upper hand. And they control more territory. They're much more powerful in terms of the military might.

HADID: He says a lot of Mattis' visit may just be damage control. In recent weeks, the Taliban have wiped out whole units of Afghan national forces.

SARWARY: The casualties and fatalities of the Afghan National Security Forces is unsustainable in the long run.

HADID: But Sarwary says he sees hope in the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad to lead peace efforts. Khalilzad is an Afghan-born American who was a former ambassador to Kabul. Sarwary says he might be the one to unpick this complicated situation.

Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.