US Secretary James Mattis has arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit aimed at shaping President Donald Trump’s strategy in the conflict-ridden country, amid signs of renewed violence.
Mattis arrived in the capital city of Kabul on Monday and was expected to meet with Afghan officials as well as American stationed there.
The chief’s arrival coincided with the resignation of his Afghan counterpart Abdullah Habibi and Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim following a Taliban attack on a base that killed some 140 last week.
The apparent security failure saw as many as 10 Taliban militants disguised as Afghan personnel make their way into the base on vehicles and gun down unsuspecting and new recruits. The final death toll is expected to be higher.
There are currently over 9,000 US in Afghanistan. Washington claims that the massive presence is only aimed at maintaining security across the country until Afghan forces are ready to take over the responsibility.
The Trump administration is reportedly planning to change the US mission’s stated priorities of training and advising Afghan forces and focus instead on carrying out strikes against terror groups such as Daesh (ISIL).
This change of policy was put on display earlier this month, when General John Nicholson, the top commander of US/NATO in Afghanistan, ordered his to drop the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb—also known as Mother of All Bombs—on a purported Daesh target in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
“There was no surprise in terms of the effect of that battle at all. The battle was going on, and we were going to use what was necessary to break ISIS. And we’ve made that very clear in every theater where we’re up against ISIS,” the chief said, using an alternative name for Daesh.
This is Mattis’ first trip to Afghanistan as secretary.