Addressing a joint news conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Jens Stoltenberg in Kabul, Mattis said the United States supports “Afghan-led reconciliation as the solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan.
He said Washington was determined not to allow “a merciless enemy to kill its way to power”.
Promising a more “holistic” approach without fixed timetables and involving other countries in the region, including Pakistan, he said the Taliban would have to learn they could not defeat the government.
“I want to reinforce to the Taliban that the only path to peace and political legitimacy for them is through a negotiated settlement,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg vowed to do everything so the country “doesn’t again become a safe haven for international terrorists.”
“Our presence together in Afghanistan reflects our continuing commitment to bringing stability and peace in [the country],” he said.
Thanking U.S. Defense Secretary and NATO Chief for the “unprecendented” sign of unity in joint visit, President Ghani said that his government is pursuing peace through a two channals.
“One is peace with Pakistan that would be achieved via state-to-state talks with a particular vision that stability in Afghanistan is not against the interests of any country, in fact on the contrary stability in Afghanistan paves way for economic growth in the region,” he said.
“Second is Afghan-owed peace dialogue, as today it has been proved for all that no body can impose his own wishes on Afghan people through conflict and violence,… and the government of Afghanistan has had ready for this process,” he added.
“For stability in the region, I call upon our near and far neighbors from India to Russia to join the renewed [efforts] of regional consensus, especially because the threat of terrorism has not yet been eradicated, but has in fact got even [more] serious,” Ghani said.
He stressed the Taliban now have to choose between continuing to serve international terrorism or to take part for peace and reconstruction in the country.
The visit of top officials comes as U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan in August, promising to step up military campaign against the Taliban militants in the country.