U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Kabul on March 13 for an unannounced visit to take stock of the war and the prospects for drawing at least some Taliban fighters into peace talks with the Afghan government.
The visit, which was not announced in advance due to security concerns, comes as the United States is putting new resources into the stalemated war.
Mattis told reporters that he thinks victory is still possible — defined as a political settlement with the Taliban.
The United States is picking up signs of interest from some elements of the Taliban in exploring the possibility of talks to end the more than 16-year-old war, he said.
"There is interest that we've picked up from the Taliban side," Mattis told reporters shortly before landing in Kabul, saying the signs date back several months.
"We've had some groups of Taliban – small groups – who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking."
Mattis planned to meet with General John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Last week, senior U.S. intelligence officials gave Congress a mix forecast for Afghanistan. They said that while Afghan forces are getting better, the Taliban is likely to threaten Afghan stability this year.