US Defense Secretary Mattis visits Afghanistan

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Mattis underscored at a news conference Monday that the purpose of his visit was to help inform his recommendations on America’s strategy in Afghanistan moving forward, but he declined to share what those recommendations might be.

He did say, “We are under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission,” adding that “2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood and who will continue to stand should to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism.”

Mattis started his visit at the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission to train and advise Afghan security forces.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday’s raid at Camp Shaheen near Mazar-e Sharif, with a spokesman telling CNN it was revenge for the deaths of two of its officials in the region.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and US Army General John Nicholson meet with Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security Director Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai in Kabul on April 24, 2017.

Mattis called the attack on unarmed soldiers at a mosque and dining facility proof that the insurgent group was a “barbaric enemy,” saying of the Taliban, “These people have no religious foundation, they are not devout anything, and it shows why we stand with the people of this country against such heinous acts.”

The defense secretary was due to meet with his Afghan counterpart, but hours before Mattis touched down in Kabul, Ghani announced that his defense minister and army chief of staff had resigned.

Mattis’s visit to Afghanistan follows meetings in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar and Djibouti.

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US troops have been fighting for nearly 16 years in Afghanistan, where the government and its coalition allies are battling a resilient Taliban as well as other terror groups including ISIS.

American forces enjoyed a brief victory last week, when the US military said Taliban leader Quari Tayib was killed in an airstrike in Kunduz province.

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