U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in surprise visit to Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul Friday on a surprise visit to the war-weary country. The U.S. command in Afghanistan confirmed the visit but offered no details.

Mattis was expected to meet with Afghan, U.S. and NATO military commanders as well as President Ashraf Ghani.

Mattis was accompanied by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford.

Mattis’ arrival came just days after a suicide bomber killed 21 people and amid a fresh round of insider attacks that claimed the life of one American service member and eight local police earlier this week.

The Trump administration seems to be ramping up efforts for a negotiated end to the Afghan war. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as Washington’s new point man for Afghan reconciliation. Khalilzad, a controversial figure in the region, is a former envoy to Afghanistan.

Mattis told reporters this week he was hopeful about peace talks with the Taliban, the Reuters news agency notes.

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