Officials say the suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed Humvee into police headquarters in Kandahar. The pre-dawn attack was claimed by the Taliban. It came hours after US Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit to the capital Kabul.

Afghan security forces keep watch at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 18, 2017.
Afghan security forces keep watch at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 18, 2017. (Reuters)

A suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed Humvee into a police headquarters in Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least six officers and wounding four others, officials said.

The attack in southern Kandahar province came a day after US Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to meet its leaders, telling them the United States was "here to see this through."

The Taliban claimed the pre-dawn attack in Kandahar's Maiwand district in the latest deadly assault by the insurgents, who have been increasingly targeting security installations.

The assault killed six people and wounded four others, Kandahar police spokesman Ghorzang Afridi said.

"All the victims were local policemen," Afridi said.

Pence visit

In an unannounced trip on Thursday evening, US Vice President Mike Pence met top leaders and underscored US commitment to the country four months after President Donald Trump agreed to an open-ended war against insurgents.

Pence arrived on a military plane at Bagram Airfield under cover of darkness after leaving Washington on Wednesday night.

He then flew by helicopter to Kabul, where he met President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah at the presidential palace.

Pence told the leaders he hoped his presence there was tangible evidence that the United States was "here to see this through."

In a reversal of his campaign call for a swift withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Trump in August pledged a stepped-up military campaign against Taliban insurgents and signalled the United States would send more troops to fight in what is the longest war in its history.

At the end of August, there were some 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan and more have since arrived.

Ghani expressed gratitude to the US government and said Afghanistan's partnership with the United States was cemented in sacrifice.

Pence told reporters the strategy of increased troops on the ground and greater authorities for military leaders was paying dividends.

Pence said their hope was that "eventually the enemy will tire of losing" and be willing to talk peace.

Asked if more troops would be needed, Pence said that would be a decision for Trump in the days ahead.

Pence coordinated the process that resulted in Trump's new Afghanistan policy and has been one of the main interlocutors between the White House and the Afghan leadership since Trump entered office in January.

He repeated his promise of US commitment to the region during remarks to troops at Bagram.

"Under President Donald Trump, the armed forces of the United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan until we eliminate the terrorist threat to our homeland, our people once and for all," Pence said.

Trump's shifting views

Trump's views of the 16-year-long Afghan conflict have shifted since he came to power.

As a presidential candidate he called for a swift withdrawal of US forces, which were bogged down through the presidencies of Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama after a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban government for harbouring Al Qaeda militants who plotted the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

But Trump, while acknowledging the decision went against his instincts, argued in August that a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for Daesh and Al Qaeda to fill.

He declined to set a timeline for withdrawal or outline benchmarks for the new strategy's success.

Criticism of Pakistan

Echoing Trump's comments when he unveiled the new strategy, Pence had sharp words for neighbouring Pakistan, which he said had provided safe haven to the Taliban and other groups for too long.

"Those days are over," Pence said. Pakistan had much to gain from partnering with the United States, and much to lose by harbouring "criminals and terrorists," he said at Bagram.

US troops are involved in training Afghan security forces and carrying out counter-terrorism operations, hoping to reverse gains by the Taliban and prod it to negotiate for peace.

Some 2,400 U.S. forces have died in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion.

Source: AFP