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Taliban attacks airfield as U.S. attorney general is in Kabul

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Holder meets Afghan officials, promises U.S. commitment
  • NEW: Holder says U.S. committed to "breaking Taliban momentum"
  • Militants attack airfield in eastern Afghanistan
  • "Several insurgents" die in attack
  • Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan War
  • NATO
  • The Taliban

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with Afghan officials in Kabul on Wednesday and promised the United States is committed to succeeding in Afghanistan and "breaking the Taliban's momentum."

Holder met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghalib, and Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Alako to discuss the ongoing U.S. efforts to foster the rule of law in Afghanistan.

At the same time Holder was in the capital, Taliban insurgents attacked Jalalabad Airfield in eastern Afghanistan, about 75 miles away. They hit the entrance of the facility with a car bomb, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, said a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The airfield's perimeter was not breached and several insurgents died in the attack, NATO said, without providing specific figures. Two joint security force members were injured.

In a text message to CNN, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said six men wearing suicide vests entered the airfield, killing 32 foreigners. CNN could not independently confirm those claims.

"This was not only an attack on a combined Afghan and ISAF facility, it was also an attack on the people of Afghanistan," said spokeswoman Capt. Jane Campbell. "The reality is that attacks such as this have absolutely no impact on the overall security situation in Afghanistan."

"Fighting corruption and supporting the rule of law in Afghanistan are top priorities for this administration," Holder said, "and we will continue to assist the Afghan government in creating and sustaining the effective criminal justice system to which the Afghan people are entitled."

He said there is "no clearer sign" of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan than President Barack Obama's recent appointment of Gen. David Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as ISAF commander.

"Gen. Petraeus fully participated in the U.S. policy review last fall, and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place today," Holder said.

Justice Department attorneys are working with Afghan prosecutors and police investigators on a probe of "significant narcotics and narcotics-related (such as corruption and money laundering) offenses."

The meetings in Afghanistan are the first for a U.S. attorney general, according to the department.

Separately, the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday it has a "strong partnership" with Afghanistan's attorney general a day after Alako accused Ambassador Karl Eikenberry of giving him ultimatums.

"The U.S. Embassy has a regular dialogue and a strong partnership with the attorney general and his office, including robust mentoring and training programs," said embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. "The ambassador's discussions with his counterparts are private and we're not going to comment on them."

At a Tuesday news conference, Alako accused Eikenberry of pressuring him to falsely investigate and bring corruption charges against a senior Afghan bank official. Alako said there is no evidence to suggest that any charges should be brought against Rafiullah Azimi, the deputy chief of Ansari Bank.

The U.S. Embassy denied Alako's accusations.

"The United States continues to respect that personnel decisions are for the Afghan government to make," Hayden said.