James Mattis
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (R) listens to President Donald Trump (L) speak during a meeting with members of his Cabinet in the White House in Washington, D.C., March 8, 2018. Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Just before his arrival in Kabul, Secretary of Defense James "Mad Dog" Mattis told reporters Tuesday certain factions of the Taliban have expressed interest in pursuing peace talks with the Afghan government.

Mattis said, “There is interest that we’ve picked up from the Taliban side,” Reuters reported.

Last month, in an effort to end the 16-year-war, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proffered an olive branch with an offer to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party.

"We're ready to restart talks about peace with Pakistan again and forget bitter experiences of the past and start a new chapter," he said, at the start of an international conference in Kabul. "Only through political settlement can we achieve enduring peace, and I call upon all ranks of Taliban to engage in an intra-Afghan dialogue."

Although the Taliban didn’t express any immediate interest on the proposal last month, Mattis told reporters he had heard smatterings of interest expressed by some factions in the Taliban.

Mattis seemed optimistic about the discussions for ceasefire between Taliban and the Afghan government.

"It may not be that the whole Taliban comes over in one fell swoop ... but there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government," he said.

The news should bode well for the United States, who in the span of a year have increased air strikes and stepped up military assistance in Afghanistan to fight the insurgents.

Mattis comments should soften President Trump’s stance on refusing to talk with Taliban who for decades have repeatedly terrorized people with violence.

A report published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said a total of 10,453 civilian casualties — 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured — were documented in the year 2017.

“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

An attack on a Kabul hotel killed more than 30 people in January and the attack on the streets of the Kabul later in the week claimed the lives of more than 100 people.

Mattis said the goal with the talks is to reinforce the message to Taliban that they cannot win the war. The message will hopefully push them towards reconciliation.

Last month in an open letter Taliban reached out to the U.S. in hopes of ending the war. However, U.S. was not willing to enter peace talks.

In a letter addressed to the "American people, officials of independent non-governmental organizations and the peace loving Congressmen," the Taliban said it wanted to end the 17-year conflict through peace talks with President Trump. The letter also warned the pacifist tack shouldn’t be perceived as a sign of weakness and its fight against the U.S. troops in Afghanistan will persist until they leave the premises.

When asked Tuesday whether the U.S. would be willing to talk directly with the Taliban, Mattis said the country’s position should be led by Kabul.

“We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort,” Mattis said.