Afghan defence chief quits over attack, as Mattis flies in

Their departure followed one of the deadliest Taliban attacks targeting the Afghan security forces, an assault on an army base in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Mattis arrived just hours after Afghanistan's defense minister and army chief resigned following an attack against Afghan military forces on Friday that killed more than 140 Afghan troops.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (R) arrives to visit the victims of April 21's attack on an army headquarters, in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan April 22, 2017.

The incident led to the resignation of both the Afghan Defense Minister, Abdullah Habibi and the Afghan Army Chief of Staff, Qadama Shah Shahim.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths. The defence ministry said the attackers were all killed.

National security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster recently visited Afghanistan as Washington considers a full "strategy review." of policy toward that country. Afghan officials have so far ignored calls to break down the toll it has given of more than 100 soldiers killed or wounded. The Taliban are using the weapons against American-backed troops in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan, according to the official.

The presidential office announced it has accepted the resignations. The Taliban fighters, who disguised themselves in army uniforms, ambushed hundreds of unarmed soldiers right after they had finished prayers.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Up to ten army personnel have been arrested and are being questioned as suspects, a military spokesman attached to the base told AFP, amid fears it could have been an insider attack.

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".

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

Nicholson also spoke alongside Mattis at the press conference at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters in Kabul, vowing there was "no space" for the Islamic State jihadist group in Afghanistan.

  • Leroy Wright