On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Afghanistan in unannounced visit to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. A few hours after Mattis landed, the Afghan airport came under attack.
Defense department officials confirmed the Afghan airport was attacked with over 40 rockets and rocket-propelled grenades. They also confirmed that some aircraft were damaged during the attack, but there were no US or Coalition forces injured during the attack. But reports do indicate that five Afghan people were injured when one of the rockets hit a home near the airport.
Najib Danish, the spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry stated that the attack happened a few hours after Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had landed at the airport. He also stated that Mattis and Stoltenberg were not at the airport at the time of the incident.
After the attack Taliban’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack, by stating that intended target was Mattis’s airplane. He also stated that an insider had given the Taliban the information that Mattis and a top NATO commander had arrived at the airport. Reports indicate that the rockets were fired towards the guard towers around the airport.
Danish also added that an Afghanistan Special Forces unit responded and were searching house and in the surrounding area. They were looking for the location of where the rockets and RPGs had been fired. He also stated that the search for Taliban fighters in the populated civilian areas was very dangerous, because the Taliban uses civilians as human shields and cover.
A statement that was release from the international coalition in Afghanistan, states that the Taliban also use civilians as cover when they attack coalition forces. They have also used civilians with suicide vest in attacks. This poses a great threat to the safety and security of the civilian population. They also stated that during the attack at the airport a few civilians were wounded. It is unclear if the civilians were injured or if there were any fatalities.
In an interview Mattis stated that he had heard reports of the attack on the airport, but did not know specific details. But he did state that an attack at any airport around the world is considered a criminal act of terrorism.
Mattis met with Afghan President Ghani, Stoltenberg, and Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This unannounced trip to Afghanistan is the first trip that Mattis has made since President Trump announced his new strategy in Afghanistan.