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    File, In this Aug. 15, 2016 photo, Taliban suicide bombers stand guard during a gathering of a breakaway Taliban faction, in the border area of Zabul province, Afghanistan

    US Picking Up Taliban Interest in Afghan Peace Talks

    © AP Photo / Mirwais Khan, File
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Afghanistan with a surprise visit on Tuesday, local media reported.

    The Pajhwok news agency reported citing government officials, that Mattis would meet country's President Ashraf Ghani, high-ranking government officials, and US troops.

    According to Jim Mattis, the US sees signs of interest from Taliban* in exploring the possibility of talks with Kabul to end the war.

    "There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side," Mattis told reporters.

    Mattis' previous visit to the country took place in September.

    READ MORE: Afghan President Offers Recognition of Taliban as Political Group — Reports

    The United States has been present in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the September 11, 2001 attacks in Washington and New York. Washington and its allies launched a military operation in Afghanistan in 2001, which ended in 2014. However, on January 1, 2015, NATO announced Operation Resolute Support to train and assist the Afghan security forces.

    *Taliban is an organization banned in Russia

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    peace talks, Taliban, James Mattis, Afghanistan, United States
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