US Defense Sec'y Mattis in Afghanistan to discuss war needs

Cheryl Sanders
April 24, 2017

In attendance was CEO Abdullah Abdullah, Mohammad Haneef Atmar, the national security adviser, defense minister and army chief of staff.

Afghan families buried their dead and the country observed a national day of mourning Sunday after at least 100 soldiers were killed or wounded in a Taliban attack on a military base, prompting angry calls for ministers and army chiefs to resign.

"When I came out of the mosque, three people with army uniforms and an army vehicle started shooting at us", an injured soldier named Mohammed Hussain told an Afghan news outlet.

Some of the attackers posed as wounded soldiers and joined an army convoy as it drove to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, an Afghan provincial military official said.

Some officials said the toll was likely to be even higher.

The attackers used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, and several detonated suicide vests packed with explosives, officials said.

Mattis was due to meet top officials including President Ashraf Ghani less than two weeks after the US military dropped its most powerful nonnuclear bomb, the MOAB, on Islamic State hideouts in eastern Afghanistan.

Relatives of some dead soldiers, waiting outside the base to receive the coffins, complained of poor security measures on the base and speculated that the attackers must have had inside help.

Ghani's office also said he had replaced the commanders of four army corps in response to the attack.

President Ashraf Ghani accepted the resignations, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, told CNN a more precise tally of the casualties from the attack would be released later.

Especially remarkable about the Friday attack was its location: the assailants struck on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, long one of the safer cities in Afghanistan.

The 209th corps is located in the Dihdadi district of Balkh. By the end, at least five attackers were killed and one was arrested, Araam said.

Friday's raid underscores the Taliban's growing strength more than 15 years since they were ousted from power, and as they gear up ahead of the spring fighting season.

In March, an attack on a military hospital in Kabul killed 50 people.

United States forces in Afghanistan on Saturday announced another incident in the northern part of the country, saying Taliban leader Quari Tayib was killed in an airstrike in Kunduz province.

The Afghan defense forces, largely responsible for waging the war after the withdrawal of most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops in 2014, have suffered from desertions, corruption and defections to the other side. Responsibility for that attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, which has emerged and gained a foothold in Afghanistan over the past years.

Other reports by iNewsToday