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US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is escorted into the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul Afghanistan on Tuesday. — Reuters

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is escorted into the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul Afghanistan on Tuesday. — Reuters

Mattis noted some positive indications from Islamabad, including Pakistani military operations along the border.

Ghani, hosting Mattis at his presidential palace in Kabul, described the new US strategy as a game changer, allowing Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Washington's apparent policy shift after 16 years, from a military victory to a political reconciliation with the Taliban, came two weeks after President Ashraf Ghani, in an global conference in Kabul on February 28, had offered the Taliban a similar proposal that called for a "ceasefire", the recognition of the Taliban as a political party, confidence-building measures, and free and fair elections.

"It has been a game changer because it has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions", Ghani said.

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The Taliban 's silence has provoked repeated calls for a direct response to Ghani's proposal made at an worldwide conference in Kabul on February 28.

However, the insurgents, who seized a district centre in western Afghanistan this week, have given no public sign of accepting Ghani's offer, instead issuing several statements suggesting they meant to keep fighting.

"I think we will succeed, and we hope and pray that our global friends and our regional friends will stay with us, and that people on the other side, the Taliban, will see that this is their best chance and we hope that they will take a chance that is offered earnestly and for the good of our people", Ghani said.

"I also wonder whether or not they're saying to themselves perhaps this is the best negotiating position [we] will ever have", Fenzel said.

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He added that there are "many Taliban who could see a way to work within this framework" but cautioned there would always be those that will never reconcile.

"It may not be that the whole Taliban comes over in one fell swoop". That would be a bridge too far. It is feared that as the inability of achieve a total Taliban victory becomes clearer, numerous Taliban fighters will join the ISKP bringing in global jihadis for a takeover of Afghanistan.

An outright refusal to talk to Ghani's administration would give Afghan and United States forces justification to ramp up air strikes against the militants.

Earlier, officials said that Kabul was deploying more troops to Farah to counter the frequent Taliban attacks and protect a planned multi-billion-dollar pipeline.

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