RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit. He's there to talk about talks, part of the U.S. effort to facilitate a dialogue with the Taliban in hopes of reaching a settlement to the 17-year-long war. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: So far, all efforts to prod the Taliban into negotiating an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan have yielded modest results. Bilal Sarwary is a freelance journalist. He's also running for parliament. I spoke to him over the phone from Kabul. He says, Mattis comes at a critical time.
BILAL SARWARY: The Taliban basically have the upper hand. And they control more territory. They're much more powerful in terms of the military might.
HADID: He says a lot of Mattis' visit may just be damage control. In recent weeks, the Taliban have wiped out whole units of Afghan national forces.
SARWARY: The casualties and fatalities of the Afghan National Security Forces is unsustainable in the long run.
HADID: But Sarwary says he sees hope in the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad to lead peace efforts. Khalilzad is an Afghan-born American who was a former ambassador to Kabul. Sarwary says he might be the one to unpick this complicated situation.
Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.