US general in Afghanistan to assess military drive

Kabul: Marine General Joe Dunford has arrived in Afghanistan with other senior military officials to assess the military campaign in the war-torn country, according to a statement by the US Department of Defence, late Monday. Dunford will meet Afghan and US officials as well as soldiers deployed as part of a recent troop increase, the statement added.
The Office of the President of Afghanistan would not say if it had arranged a meeting with Dunford. Significant state visits are subject to tight security measures in the capital Kabul.
Dunford told reporters that he wants “to talk to the actual advisers who are working on the ground with the Afghans every day and make some conclusions about where (they) are.”
Nato’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014. The current focus is the Train, Advise and Assist under the Resolute Support mission.
Around 11,000 US troops who are part of the training mission as well as counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations are stationed in Afghanistan. Dunford’s visit takes place just a week after US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis came to Afghanistan to discuss peace with the Taliban and met Afghan and Nato officials.
On Monday, a bomb on a motorcycle exploded near a political rally in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least four people and wounding 10 others, officials said.
The blast happened as supporters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord and former prime minister, were leaving the rally at a football stadium in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
Hekmatyar, who returned to public life last year after signing a controversial peace deal with the Afghan government, was at the gathering but it was not clear if he or his supporters were the target of the attack.
Provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said four people had been confirmed dead and 10 wounded including two children.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Areas of restive Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan, are a stronghold for the IS group but Taliban fighters are also active there. It was the latest deadly violence to strike Afghanistan as militant groups step up attacks and US and Afghan forces intensify air strikes and ground offensives.  — dpa/AFP