Russia may be aiding Taliban, US general in Afghanistan says

General John Nicholson, the top USA commander in Afghanistan, recently told a Congressional hearing that he needed several thousand more global troops in order to break a stalemate in the long war with Taliban insurgents.

But Mattis told reporters Monday that the decisions have not yet been made.

Angry Afghans called for the resignations of Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief Qadam Shah Shaheem, among other officials, after the assault outside the city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday.

Mattis is the first member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet to visit Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly called on the Taliban to join peace talks.

Larijani also extended his condolences to Ibrahimi and other Afghan lawmakers, government and people as well as the bereaved families of the victims over the terrorist attacks. The complex coordination and intelligence assessments indicate the Haqqani network was involved, the official added.

Nicholson said the US has continued to receive reports of Russian assistance to the Taliban. Pentagon officials have conceded the group has gained ground in several areas throughout the country in the past year.

The statement said the attack was in retaliation for the killing of the Taliban shadow governor of Kunduz province, Mullah Abdul Salam Akhund, and threatened more violence against the army and police, saying "this year's operations will be painful".

Afghanistan's top two defence officials resigned on Monday amid growing public pressure following Friday's deadly attack on the army base. The president's official Twitter account also confirmed the resignations.

"I'd say that we are under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission", Mattis told a news conference.

The war began in October 2001.

He arrived at a low point for Afghan Security Forces in the three years since President Obama ended the USA combat mission.

There are 8,400 American servicemembers deployed to Afghanistan.

Mattis is familiar with the Afghan war effort. But the visit by Mr. Mattis, who once commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade in southern Afghanistan, has fueled speculation that the White House may be close to a way forward. As part of the administration's review of Afghan policy, Trump's national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to consult with Nicholson and Afghan officials.

Mattis also discussed with American and Afghan officials the ongoing efforts to target Islamic State militants in the country's east.

Although the government insists about 100 were killed or wounded, other sources put the toll at more than 130 dead. It was not immediately clear who would replace them. They arrived inside northern Afghanistan's largest military installation just as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed soldiers were emerging from Friday Prayers and preparing for lunch.

  • Leroy Wright