Kabul airport attack: Taliban targets U.S. defence secretary James Mattis

James Mattis North Korea US India US india ties Nirmala Sitharaman

Insurgents fired mortars and detonated suicide vests Wednesday in an attack targeting Kabul's global airport during a visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and US forces responded with an airstrike that inadvertently caused civilian casualties, authorities said.

Afghan officials said several civilians were wounded when a rocket struck a home near the airport but did not specify that the casualties were caused by the errant USA projectile.

ISIS also claimed responsibility, the group's AMAQ news agency said, adding that "infiltrators" used SPG-9 rockets and mortars.

As NATO forces tried to fend off a Taliban attack during the visit of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis to Kabul, a "tragic malfunction" during a US air strike resulted in a number of civilian casualties.

It said USA forces conducted an airstrike in support of an Afghan unit acting to end the assault.

Speaking in a news conference with Mattis, Ghani described the attack as "a sign of weakness, not strength" by insurgents.

Stoltenberg also said North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was committed to funding the Afghan security forces until at least 2020, and would continue to provide them nearly a $1 billion each year.

The number of US personnel in Afghanistan is around 8,000, and Mattis has pledged to send 3,000 more to help boost the defense of the country, but to also train the Afghan security forces.

The Taliban said it specifically targeted Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, neither of whom had announced their visits in advance, though both men had already left the area when the rockets began to hit.

The clashes and casualties overshadowed a visit meant to demonstrate US support for the Afghan government and provided a sharp reminder of the risks associated with a more aggressive USA policy that is expected to increase the number of air strikes. 'The sooner the Taliban recognise they can not win with bombs, the sooner the killing will end, ' he said.

Mattis said USA forces would do "everything humanly possible" to limit the civilian casualties that fueled bitter disputes between Washington and the government of former president Hamid Karzai.

"We will not abandon Afghanistan to a merciless enemy", he said, referring to the persistent threat posed by the Taliban insurgency. Afghan special forces managed to repel the attackers, killing four in an ensuing gunbattle.

Mattis' unannounced visit to Afghanistan, after his two-day trip in India, assumes significance as President Trump said that he would rely on greater regional cooperation to stabilise the security situation in Afghanistan.

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