Taliban Claims Kabul Rocket Attack Was Targeting Mattis

American student Otto Warmbier center is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang

American student Otto Warmbier center is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang

Up to 20 rockets have struck the airport and surrounding areas in Afghanistan's capital of Kabul hours after US Defense Secretary James Mattis and NATO's General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg arrived in the country on an unannounced visit.

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 us projectile.

The reports said that the Taliban insurgents used civilians as human shields during the Kabul attack and even fired ammunition and mortars.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote in a tweet that the "target was plane of US Defense Secretary Mattis".

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that an attack on the Kabul airport hours after his arrival only heightened US resolve to defeat the Taliban.

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The resurgent militants have promised to turn Afghanistan into a "graveyard" for foreign forces and have been mounting deadly attacks as they maintain control over large swathes of the country. Mattis called the attack "a crime" during the news conference, which was broadcast live.

The visit marked the first from a high-ranking Trump administration official since the president announced his new South Asia strategy in late August.

"It defines their approach to how they see their role here and if in fact this is what they have done, they will find the Afghan security forces continuing on the offensive against them in every district of the country right now", Mattis said.

His unannounced visit came as the country's beleaguered security forces struggle to beat back the Taliban, which has been on the offensive since US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops withdrew at the end of 2014.

Mattis arrived in Kabul following a visit to New Delhi, during which he met his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman who said India would not send troops to Afghanistan as part of Trump's plan.

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"We will not abandon Afghanistan to a merciless enemy", he said, referring to the persistent threat posed by the Taliban insurgency.

Within that speech, Mattis called the Taliban "a merciless enemy" that the us would not allow "to kill its way to power".

The Taliban was justified in unleashing a barrage of rockets at Kabul's global airport, they have every right to protect the sovereignty of their nation and to seek to kill the leader of the occupying force. At one point, the Afghan forces called in a USA airstrike.

On the Taliban, Mattis said: "The only path to peace and political legitimacy for them is through a negotiated settlement".

The US Secretary of Defense, who assumed office in January, said at a news conference Wednesday that the Pentagon would ensure that Afghanistan "doesn't again become a safe haven for worldwide terrorists".

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