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US defense chief, NATO head on surprise Afghan visit

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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.

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.

Stoltenberg and Mattis are “visiting Afghan leadership and troops,” the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) announced in a statement.

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.

Mattis last visited Afghanistan in April to assess the situation to advise Trump about a likely surge of U.S. troops.

Flanked by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, Mattis said then that Washington has no illusions about the mission in Afghanistan, and that 2017 will be another tough year for both Afghan security forces and the international troops here.

NATO and its partners are already committed to providing financial support to sustain the Afghan forces until the end of 2017 and are currently working to ensure support until the end of 2020.

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