KABUL: Over a dozen rockets hit Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport Wednesday, an hour after the U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis landed in the capital along with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Najib Danish told Anadolu Agency there was no damage from the rockets that landed “near the airport”.
“Luckily, no harm to people or the property has been done. Flight operations continue normally,” Danish said.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Zabehullah Mujahed, spokesman for the group, claimed in a statement the military section of the airport had been hit, with missiles targeting the plane of the U.S. defense secretary.
It remains unclear if the US defense secretary used the airport that came under attack.
Later in the day, Mattis and Stoltenberg joined President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in a news conference in Kabul to urge the Taliban to participate in a peace process and forget about anticipating a victory on the war front.
Ghani said his government is pursuing peace in the war-ravaged country through a two-pronged policy.
“One is peace with Pakistan that is achieved via state-to-state talks with a particular vision that stability in Afghanistan is not against the interests of any country, in fact on the contrary stability in Afghanistan paves way for economic growth in the region,” he said.
“For stability in the region, I call upon our near and far neighbors from India to Russia to join the renewed [efforts] of regional consensus, especially because the threat of terrorism has not yet been eradicated, but has in fact got even [more] serious.”
Ghani said the Taliban now have to choose between continuing to serve international terrorism or to take part for peace and reconstruction in the country.
He added that Afghan security forces were getting stronger, but an intra-Afghan peace and internal dialogue remains a priority of his administration.
NATO chief said the Taliban must understand they cannot win on the battlefield and there is much more for them to gain on the negotiating table.
Welcoming the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said Afghan armed forces have come a very long way with NATO’s help.
He added the alliance would continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces, noting the fact that around 13,000 troops from 39 countries continue to serve in Afghanistan.
“If NATO leaves, we risk Afghanistan returning to a state of chaos: a safe haven for international terrorism,” he said.
“The last time that happened, it led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in which almost 3,000 people were murdered — we cannot allow that to happen again.”
Mattis said instability in South Asia is a threat to the world. Expressing confidence about the future of Afghanistan, he accused the Taliban of intentionally using civilians in ways that results in their deaths.
He also said that the U.S.’s new strategy was an “opportunity” for Pakistan to fight terrorism.
This is the first trip to Afghanistan of the two top Western security bosses following U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of a new Afghan strategy in late August.
On Tuesday, Mattis met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Indian capital New Delhi to discuss improved defense cooperation and Trump’s plan for India to take a larger role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.