US defense secretary Mattis arrives in Kabul for surprise visit

Published April 24th, 2017 - 11:00 GMT
US Defence Secretary James Mattis (R) and senior advisor Sally Donnelly arrive by helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul on April 24, 2017. (AFP/Jonathan Ernst)
US Defence Secretary James Mattis (R) and senior advisor Sally Donnelly arrive by helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul on April 24, 2017. (AFP/Jonathan Ernst)

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit for the first time on Monday as the Trump administration looks to draft its Afghan policy. 

The trip comes after US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster made a visit to Kabul on April 16, just days after a massive bomb was dropped on an Islamic State cave complex in eastern Nangarhar. 

Mattis was expected to meet US troops stationed in the war-torn country and Afghan officials.

The Defense Secretary was making the visit the same day his Afghan counterpart, General Abdullah Habibi, and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim resigned over a deadly army base attack that left 140 soldiers and officers dead and 160 others wounded in what is being called the largest and deadliest attack on an army command centre.

The resignations were accepted by the Presidential Palace and both officials "stepped down with immediate effect," the palace said.

Taliban militants in three military vehicles with forged documents launched the attack by shooting a rocket at the entrance of the base a few kilometres from Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh province.

A protest was taking place in the capital Kabul also denouncing the recent attack. Former president Hamid Karzai, who had called on his "Taliban brothers" to join the peace process, said he would no longer call the insurgents his brothers as a result of the attack. 

Ten militants first targeted a mosque inside the base where army staff were performing Friday prayers, before moving on to a dining facility.

The Afghan Defence Ministry had said in a statement that more than 100 soldiers were killed and wounded in the attack, without providing an exact number of casualties, while provincial council member Mohammad Ibrahim Khair Andesh said 140 were killed and 160 wounded. 

Friday's attack was the second such attack on a secure facility in recent months. In early March, Islamic State militants attacked a military hospital in Kabul, killing 49 people and leaving 76 wounded.

By Mohammad Jawad and Abdul Qadir Sediqi

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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