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less bombs, more talks

Mattis says America can only win in Afghanistan with diplomacy

The United States could still achieve a positive outcome after 6,000 days of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday, but it won't happen on the battlefield.

"We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan," he said in Kabul. "Not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation" between the Taliban and the Afghan government. He conceded the Taliban as a whole is not ready to make a deal, but said "there is interest on the Taliban side" among "those who are tired of fighting."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani extended an unprecedented invitation for peace talks to the Taliban at the end of February, and Mattis reported some factions of the Taliban are privately expressing openness to the proposal, though they have yet to make any public comment. Among Ghani's demands are the Taliban's rejection of violence and willingness to participate in the political process.