Secretary of Defense James Mattis made a surprise visit to Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday. Hours later, militants launched a rocket attack on the airport in Kabul.
The Taliban claims that Mattis was the target, although he was no longer at the airport when they attacked. The Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for the attacks. Both Islamic State (ISIS) and Taliban forces control territory in Afghanistan but, while they have co-operated at times on joint attacks, they seek different ends. The Taliban desires control of Afghanistan, while ISIS pursues the institution of a global Islamic caliphate.
Mattis is a highly-regarded retired Marine Corps General, having previously served in many conflicts, including the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the War in Iraq.
Accompanying Mattis was NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. They met with Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, and General John Nicholson, commander of American forces in the country. This was the first visit by Mattis to Afghanistan after President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for the Afghan war last month.
The Resurgent previously reported on the key pieces of Trump’s new strategy, but the main points are that he is loosening the rules of engagement for American forces and focussing on assisting the Afghan government and military so that they can begin to control their own country’s security. In addition, Pakistan will be expected to assist with rooting militants from its territory, and India may be enlisted as a partner in the fight.
There are approximately U.S. 11,000 troops currently in Afghanistan, with 3,500 more being sent. At the war’s peak in 2011, there were over 100,000 American troops there. Since the beginning of the war in 2001, American casualties have included over 2,300 dead and 17,000 wounded.