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 Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the rocket attacks on Wednesday, saying that one rocket had hit a nearby home, injuring five civilians.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Local media outlets cited sources and eyewitnesses in the city’s 9th police district as saying that the rockets had been launched from a residential building, which was reportedly surrounded for a search operation.
There were also reports of sporadic gun fire right after the rockets landed close to the military section of the airport.
The attacks on Wednesday came just three days after a terrorist set off his explosives near a convoy of US-led foreign forces in the Afghan capital, wounding at least five civilians. The Taliban announced responsibility for that bombing.
The visits by Mattis and Stoltenberg come after US President Donald Trump allowed the deployment of another 4,000 US troops in Afghanistan. They also come as Afghanistan’s embattled security forces continue to struggle to maintain security.
Mattis and Stoltenberg have held a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Stoltenberg talked about the cost of an early withdrawal from Afghanistan. “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 reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to provide nearly a billion dollars annually for Afghan defense and security forces until at least 2020.
Mattis noted that the Taliban need to come to the realization 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,” he said.
During their visit, the two officials also plan to discuss the so-called Resolute Support train-and-assist mission of US-led foreign forces, which is purportedly designed to strengthen Afghanistan’s troops so they can hold their own.
“Discussions will focus on the NATO-Afghanistan partnership, including the ongoing NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in support of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” read a statement on Resolute Support’s official Facebook page.
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Sixteen years later, security remains fragile in the Asian country.
US generals have for months been describing the security situation in Afghanistan as a stalemate, despite years of military support, continued assistance from the NATO coalition, and an overall spending of more than $1 trillion for military and reconstruction operations.
The Taliban, which ruled the country before the 2001 invasion, are reportedly overrunning territory in the south and north.
The Takfiri terrorist group Daesh has also recently emerged in Afghanistan.