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The New Arab

Civilian killed in failed attack on Mattis in Kabul

Militants said the attack was targeting Mattis' plane [AFP]

Date of publication: 27 September, 2017

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Six rockets that were destined for a plane carrying US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to Afghanistan killed at least one civilian and injured four others on Wednesday.
One person was killed and four other civilians injured after six rockets landed near Kabul's international airport on Wednesday, just hours after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis flew to the Afghan capital for talks, an official said.

All of the victims were members of the same family, according to Najib Danish, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, who confirmed one of the rockets landed on a home near the airport.

"A search operation is underway in the area by police units," Danish said.

The attack was claimed by Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, on his official Twitter account.

The Islamic State's local Khorasan province affiliate also claimed responsibility, as security forces were locked in a stand-off with the attackers.

The attack came hours after Mattis and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg arrived in the Afghan capital, the first member of Donald Trump's cabinet to visit the war-torn country since his pledge to stay the course in America's longest war. 

‘Unannounced visit’

The unannounced high-level visit came as Afghanistan's beleaguered security forces struggle to beat back the Taliban, which has been on the offensive since the withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops at the end of 2014. 

Mattis, along with Stoltenberg, was to hold talks with President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials to discuss the US-led NATO "train and assist" mission - designed to strengthen Afghanistan's military so it can defend the country on its own. 

At a joint news conference with Ghani at the presidential palace Mattis and Stoltenberg pledged the support of US and NATO allies to the Afghan conflict, and expressed determination to stop the country becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

The foreign assistance would give Afghan forces a "compelling battlefield advantage over anything the Taliban stands to mass against" it, Mattis told reporters.

"We will not abandon Afghanistan to a merciless enemy trying to kill its way to power." 

Meanwhile, Stoltenberg said "the more stable Afghanistan is the more safe we will be," adding that more than 15 NATO members had agreed to send additional troops.

US generals have for months been describing the situation in Afghanistan as a stalemate, despite years of support for Afghan partners, continued help from a NATO coalition and an overall cost in fighting and reconstruction to the United States of more than $1 trillion.

October marks the 16th anniversary of the start of the war. America is pressing NATO partners to increase their own troop levels in the country to help Afghan forces get the upper hand in the grinding battle against the Taliban and Islamic State. 

The resurgent Taliban have promised to turn Afghanistan into a "graveyard" for foreign forces and have been mounting deadly attacks as they maintain their grip on large swathes of the country. 

Under Trump's plan, the US is sending more than 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, on top of the 11,000 already on the ground, to train and advise the country's security forces.

NATO allies have around 5,000 troops deployed around the country. 

Critics have questioned what the extra US soldiers can accomplish that previous forces - who numbered some 100,000 at the height of the fighting - were unable to do.

Agencies contributed to this report.

 

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