State Department spokesman Mark Toner said more than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed and more than 60 others were wounded in Friday’s attack on an army base outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“We are under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission”, said Mattis, who called the Taliban a “barbaric enemy” as he referenced an attack Friday that killed more than 100 at an Afghan military base.
He arrived as Afghan security forces, already paying a heavy price against the resurgent Taliban ahead of the spring fighting season, faced chaos with the resignations of defense minister Abdullah Habibi and army chief Qadam Shah Shaheem.
That official, briefing journalists about intelligence reports on condition of anonymity, said Taliban fighters are now using Russian-supplied weapons in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan.
Afghan officials and witnesses said that a group of ten heavily armed suicide bombers attacked and carried out the massacre just when hundreds of soldiers and officers were about to finish afternoon prayers in a mosque located deep inside the highly fortified facility.
Taliban fighters have made major gains in Helmand, a province in which the US military has lost a lot of blood.
The attack in the capital Mazar-e-Sharif of the northern Balkh province is seen as the Taliban’s biggest military assault in terms of casualties, and worst setback for the nascent ANA.
The attack at a military base in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif raises more questions about the Afghan military’s ability to defend against such attacks, more than 15 years after the US drove the Taliban from power.
It was one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan since 2001.
Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor’s office, told the Reuters news agency he was aware of “a vehicle bomb attack at one of the gates in the USA base, but we are not allowed there to get more details”. Ghani declared Sunday a day of mourning, ordering flags to be flown at half staff.
On Friday, up to 10 militants dressed in Afghan Army uniforms breached security at the 209th Corps base. “In keeping secretary’s intent, they will be annihilated”, said Nicholson, who noted that ISIS attempts to gain a foothold in the country have been mostly repelled.
Source: Normangee Star