by WorldTribune Staff, September 27, 2017
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s plane was the target of a Taliban rocket attack that left five civilians wounded as Mattis arrived for a surprise visit in Afghanistan on Sept. 27.
Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had already left Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport at the time of the incident, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told CNN.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was meant to target Mattis’ plane, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted.
Mattis and Stoltenberg pledged during a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to do whatever is needed so Afghanistan “doesn’t again become a safe haven for international terrorists.”
Mattis said that “through our partnership, we will suffocate any hope that Al Qaida or [Islamic State],…Haqqani or the Taliban have of winning by killing.”
Mattis added that he wanted “to reinforce to the Taliban that the only path to peace and political legitimacy for them is through a negotiated settlement. The sooner the Taliban recognizes they cannot win with bombs, the sooner the killing will end.”
Stoltenberg said NATO is aware of “the cost of staying in Afghanistan, but the cost of leaving would be even higher.”
He added that “if NATO forces leave too soon, there is a risk that Afghanistan may return to a state of chaos and once again become a safe haven for international terrorism.”
Stoltenberg also said the alliance was committed to funding the Afghan security forces until at least 2020. He said NATO would keep providing almost $1 billion each year to the Afghan defense and security forces.