Mattis target of failed Kabul airport rocket attack, Taliban says

 In World

Hours after Mattis landed, the rockets were fired at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport from an unknown location and landed in an open area, according to Najib Danish, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. He did not reveal how many rockets were fired.

Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already left the airport at the time of the incident, Danish said. No one was injured.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility and said Mattis’ plane was the target of the attack, the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, tweeted.

Up to 40 rounds of munitions hit the airport, according to a US military official, 29 of which were rocket-propelled grenades. The nature of the other munitions was not immediately known.

The official said the munitions were fired toward a guard tower and hit the south side of the airport.

An Afghan special forces unit was searching houses close to the airport on the suspicion that the rockets were fired from them, Danish added.

Mattis’ unannounced visit Wednesday was his first trip to the country since US President Donald Trump announced a new Afghan strategy in late August.

At a press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Stoltenberg, Mattis said he had only heard some press reports but said “an attack on an airport anywhere in the world is a criminal act by terrorist.”

“If, in fact, this is what they have done, they will find the Afghan Security Forces continuing on the offensive against them in every district of the country right now,” Mattis added.

Presidential meeting

Mattis met with Afghan President Ghani at the Presidential Palace, alongside Stoltenberg and Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan.

Saying it was “refreshing” to be in the country alongside NATO’s leader, he said a “lot was riding” on Trump’s new strategy.

“A lot is riding on this of course as we look toward how do we put an end to this fighting and the threat of terrorism to the Afghan people, to the international community and how do we put this into a path of political reconciliation,” he said.

At the time, Trump said he was shifting the policy to take the emphasis off troop numbers, and would rely on greater regional cooperation to stabilize the security situation in Afghanistan.

“We are here to set the military and security conditions for that but recognize ultimately the responsibility for the Afghan leadership under your direction,” Mattis added.

Earlier Mattis met with key Afghan government officials, including Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami and Interior Minister Wais Barmak, as well as Stoltenberg and Nicholson, at Resolute Support Headquarters.

Nicholson gave an assessment of the fighting season so far, saying it had gone as well as can be expected.

Stoltenberg also spoke at the meeting, reiterating NATO support for Afghan forces.

“We are ready to train, assist and advise. We would like to help you break the stalemate that we have seen,” he said.

During his visit, Mattis is also expected to meet with the and spend time with US troops.

Later, he’ll hold a press conference with Ghani and the NATO chief.

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