The Afghan President's initiative includes declaring an indefinite ceasefire between both parties, recognizing the Taliban as a political party, and freeing the prisoners in order to initiate a path towards a peace process that puts an end to more than 16 years of conflict.
Mattis described the approach as peeling off fighters exhausted from a war that's gone on for more than 16 years.
Ghani proposed talks with no preconditions with the Taliban last month, in what the Reuters news agency says "was seen by USA officials as a major overture from Kabul".
"We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort", Mattis said.
Mattis stressed that the military campaign was aimed at driving the insurgents toward a political reconciliation, as opposed to an outright battlefield defeat.
Defense Secretary James Mattis is in Afghanistan Tuesday to discuss the military campaign there and "peeling off" some members of the Taliban to pursue a peace deal with the Afghan government. Elements of the Taliban are open to talks with the Afghan government, Mattis said. These and other moves boosted the number of US troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000.
Mattis offered few details about the Taliban outreach and it was unclear whether the latest reconciliation prospects would prove any more fruitful than previous, frustrated attempts to move toward a negotiated end to America's longest war. They have so far not responded to Ghani's overture.
The war in Afghanistan has been running since a US-led invasion in 2001 toppled the then-ruling Taliban, which Washingon accused of colluding with terrorist group al-Qaida and harboring its leader Osama bin Laden, who was wanted over the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The Taliban stance is that talks for a conflict-ending compromise must take place with Washington, not Kabul. U.S. President Donald Trump in August announced an increase in the number of U.S. troops in the country to push back the resurgent Taliban. Pakistan, Iran and Russian Federation are thought to maintain ties to militant proxies inside Afghanistan in case the war-ravaged country collapses.
In Votel's view, the greatest risk to stability in Afghanistan is the Kabul government's "uncertain political situation" as it prepares for planned July 2018 parliamentary elections.
Afghanistan experts have long anxious that a precipitous USA exit could usher in defeat for the Afghan army.
"I also wonder whether or not they're saying to themselves perhaps this is the best negotiating position (we) will ever have", Fenzel said.
Testifying at the same hearing, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, offered a mixed outlook.
But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with the Western-backed government, which they say is illegitimate.