Mattis’ meeting with NATO in Afghanistan marred by rocket attack
Several rockets slammed into the international airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul Wednesday, hours after a U.S. delegation led by Defense Secretary James Mattis touched down in the country.
Afghan insurgents reportedly fired on Hamid Karzai International Airport with rocket-propelled grenades from positions inside homes and buildings surrounding the airport, which also doubles as a military air base for U.S. and NATO forces.
Local reports claim at least one civilian was killed and 11 wounded after one of the rockets struck a guest house near the airport. Three attackers were also killed after an Afghan security forces-led operation to clear the buildings and homes where insurgents supposedly launched the attacks from, acting Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told reporters.
One Afghan air force C-130 cargo aircraft and two MD-530 light attack helicopters were damaged during Wednesday’s airport attack, while two coalition aircraft were also reportedly struck during the rocket barrage, local reports claimed.
Afghan forces also uncovered large caches of weapons and explosives inside the homes used by the insurgents during Wednesday’s attack. No member of Mr. Mattis‘ entourage, which had departed the airport hours before the attack, were harmed. Both the Islamic State terror group and the Taliban claimed credit for the strike.
The attack came as Mr. Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Kabul to meet with Afghan President Asraf Ghani to discuss details of Washington’s new strategy for the 16-year war.
Earlier this month, Mr. Mattis told reporters that orders had been issued for over 3,000 new U.S. troops to deploy into Afghanistan over the next few months. The modest troop surge is part of the Trump White House’s new Afghan war plan.
That plan, announced by President Trump in August, abandons the timeline-driven strategy imparted by the Obama administration in favor of a conditions-based approach that could lead to an enduring U.S. presence in Afghanistan for decades to come.