U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission, visit the mission headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2017. (U.S. Navy/Lt.Cmdr. Kathryn Gray)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that an attack on the Kabul airport hours after his arrival only heightened U.S. resolve to defeat the Taliban.
“So it is what it is, but it’s also the reason why we band together, and we don’t question what we’re doing here,” Mattis said at a briefing with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani following the attack on the Hamid Karzai international airport with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Both the Taliban and the Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility, but Mattis put the blame on the Taliban. “This is a classic definition of what the Taliban are up to right now,” he said.
Marttis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Kabul hours before the attack took place and were greeted by Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
They then went to central Kabul to discuss U.S. plans to send more than 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to back Afghan forces against the resurgent Taliban.
Afghan officials said three of the attackers were killed and five civilians were wounded in the attack that damaged helicopters and hangars at the airport.
Mattis made the unscheduled trip to Afghanistan following talks in India on regional issues.