US, NATO renew Afghan commitment

Source:AFP Published: 2017/9/27 22:48:40

Insurgents fire rockets, kill one in Kabul

Afghan security force members patrol at the site of an attack in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2017. Three Taliban and one civilian were killed and 11 people wounded after Taliban attacked an international airport in Kabul on Wednesday, authorities said. (Xinhua/Rahmat Alizadah)

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg renewed their commitment to Afghanistan Wednesday, as insurgents fired rockets that killed one person and wounded four in Kabul.

Mattis is the first member of US President Donald Trump's cabinet to visit the country since Trump pledged to stay the course in US' longest war.

In a sign of the nation's continuing insecurity a volley of rockets landed on a house near Kabul international airport hours after Mattis flew in, the interior ministry said.

One person died and four others were wounded - all from the same family - in the assault claimed by the Taliban, with the missiles had been aimed at Mattis' plane.

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

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, Mattis and Stoltenberg pledged the support of US and NATO allies to the Afghan conflict, and expressed determination to stop the country from 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 said. "We will not abandon Afghanistan to a merciless enemy trying to kill its way to power."

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 US of more than $1 trillion.

October marks the 16th anniversary of the start of the war.

The US 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 IS.


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