Taliban attack Kandahar Airfield


Map of Afghanistan's provinces. Click map to view larger image.

The Taliban launched yet another ground attack on a major Coalition military base in Afghanistan.

A Taliban force launched a coordinated attack today against Kandahar Airfield, the largest base in southern Afghanistan and a major hub for operations in the south. More than 10,000 Coalition soldiers and contractors are based at the airfield.

The attack began at about 8:00 p.m. local time when Taliban fighters moved close to the perimeter and fired mortars and rockets at the sprawling airbase. Three rockets landed inside the base; one struck a helicopter terminal and another a shopping center, Reuters reported. Four people were wounded.

The indirect fire attack was quickly followed by a ground assault by a Taliban force whose size is not yet known. Coalition helicopters are engaging the Taliban force; the fighting is ongoing.

The attack is the third major strike against the Coalition in six days, and the fourth attempt to overrun a Coalition and Afghan base in the country during the same time period. The largest assault targeted the airbase at Bagram in central Afghanistan, the largest Coalition base in the country.

On May 17, a team of three suicide bombers armed with assault rifles attacked a border police headquarters in Kandahar. The first suicide bomber detonated at the outer wall, opening a hole that allowed the two other bombers to enter the compound. Police killed the two other bombers during a gunfight that lasted nearly an hour.

On May 18, a suicide bomber rammed into a Coalition convoy in Kabul. Twelve civilians and two colonels, two lieutenant colonels, and two soldiers were killed in the attack.

On May 19, a Taliban assault team attempted to storm the US airbase in Bagram in Parwan province, but was beaten back by US forces defending the base. An estimated 30 to 40 Taliban fighters carried out the assault. During the attack, 16 Taliban fighters, including four suicide bombers, as well as a US military contractor were killed.

On May 21, Afghan police repelled a suicide assault team that attempted to overrun a police outpost in Paktika. Four Taliban fighters and a policeman were killed in the fighting.

The Taliban attacks are designed to break the will of the Coalition and demonstrate that Taliban forces can strike in the heart of Afghanistan as well as along the periphery. Earlier this month, the Taliban announced that it would begin operation Al Faath, or Victory, on May 10. The Taliban said it would target Coalition and Afghan forces, their bases, the Afghan government, security and logistics companies, and anyone supporting the "foreign forces."


READER COMMENTS: "Taliban attack Kandahar Airfield"

Posted by al at May 22, 2010 3:13 PM ET:

Is this good? It seems when they come out into the "open" with an attack with numbers, allies can just kill more.

Posted by Bill Baar at May 22, 2010 7:21 PM ET:

Michael Yon had a disturbing post a few days ago saying things were going south fast and McCrystal was putting a lid on the stories coming out to keep a happy face on everything. No one really pays attention here at home it seems (my take at least). Bad story... I hope Yon's wrong.

Posted by captainjohann at May 23, 2010 12:41 AM ET:

Taliban seem to be keeping their word.

Posted by KnightHawk at May 23, 2010 2:47 PM ET:

"Earlier this month, the Taliban announced that it would begin operation Al Faath, or Victory, on May 10. The Taliban said it would target Coalition and Afghan forces, their bases, the Afghan government, security and logistics companies, and anyone supporting the "foreign forces."
Well I suppose you gotta give them credit, they attempted what they said they would attempt, to no real effect.

Posted by DL at May 23, 2010 4:18 PM ET:

Unfortunately, they don't have to have any "real" effect. As someone previously has pointed out, it's about propaganda. All they have to do is stage several high profile assaults in a relatively short period of time and populations in the west will conclude the war in un-winnable and increase pressure to withdraw.

Public opinion has long been the USA's Achilles Heel militarily speaking.

Posted by RetiredFromMilitary at May 23, 2010 6:44 PM ET:

Shades of the Tet Offensive, which was a military disaster for the Viet Cong, but made to appear as a grave defeat of the USA by Walter Conkrite, among others.

Still, the Vietnam allegory only goes so far. There is neither North Vietnam nor China/USSR to sustain the Taliban. While they are on their "offensive", time to hit their strongholds very hard.

Posted by C. Jordan at May 23, 2010 7:15 PM ET:

"Public opinion has long been the USA's Achilles Heel militarily speaking"

Tell me where these murders get off with "public opinion" when THEY are ones killing innocent people. The world can see these criminals for what they are, INSANE.

What movement can last long, that blows themselves up, just to get in the door?

Posted by Wdames at May 23, 2010 9:39 PM ET:

This is not the Tet offensive which was a political success while at the same time a military disaster. They are just getting blown away to what end? At some point even these idiots have to realize they are going nowhere.

The problem is new talaban don't know the truth

Posted by DL at May 23, 2010 11:48 PM ET:

@ C. Jordan- You seem to misunderstand what I'm saying. The Taliban isn't winning in public opinion because people like them. They're winning because they're creating the impression in the "West" that the war can't be won at a reasonable cost and that NATO should therefore withdraw.

Look at public opinion polls on the war. Even in the US, which arguably should be most supportive of NATO's efforts for various reasons, a plurality of the population believes the war is un-winnable and the US should withdraw. I might not like it or agree with it, but it's the case. The fact of the matter is that the "West" has become hyper-sensitive to cost and casualties in particular. All they have to do is attack large bases and political targets repeatedly. People back home just see headlines every few days about attacks on major bases, don't bother to read into it, and conclude that it's a no win situation.

If you read The Counterinsurgency Field Manual (which should be required reading for anyone interested in this site) you'll see a paragraph in the introduction in which the authors state that the book has been so widely read that they've found copies of it in Taliban training centers. They're conducting classic asymmetric warfare. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "by-the-book".

Posted by MrBuds at May 24, 2010 3:28 AM ET:

Public opinion of the war in Afghanistan will ebb and flow based on political and populous sentiment. Currently the war in Iraq is the unjust war while the war in Afghanistan is considered just as far as western, American ideology is concerned. It is unfortunate that there can't be peace talks, or at least a called cease fire. I truly do not know why NATO is even involved. I mean how much good are they really doing when it comes down to the front lines.

Posted by BraddS at May 24, 2010 6:04 AM ET:

Walter Cronkite - isn't he the guy who dreamed up the famous "they couldn't have done it alone" 911 Consiparacy Theory over drinks with his publicist? The guy who wouldn't run for public office because he realized he made his living criticisizing everybody else's efforts, and he would have to be one of those people? Yea, nice role model for generations of wannabe journalism majors...

Posted by T Ruth at May 24, 2010 6:08 AM ET:

"They're winning because they're creating the impression in the "West" that the war can't be won at a reasonable cost and that NATO should therefore withdraw."

I get clearly what you said in your original comment. Question is, is this the whole picture?

How much of this impression is of the US's own making? For example,
-having muddled through for the last 9 years,
-setting artificial deadlines that appear, militarily, unrealistic, unachievable and, accordingly, unconvincing even to the lay-person,
-effectively fighting half a war on a not-level playing field by not having a clear and rational understanding with a key ally, Pakistan who appears hesitant and sceptical of the US.

Naturally this makes the Taliban's work easier and so the downward spiral in the confidence in the Obama Administration's leadership of this war.

Posted by ArneFufkin at May 24, 2010 9:29 AM ET:

I've followed Michael Yon for years and while I admire him as an outside the wire journalist - and especially as a photographer - he seems to always harbor deep animus toward the top field commanders in whatever theater he's covering. The great Achilles heel I observe in the Af-Pak strategy is our seeming zero tolerance for any civilian collateral damage. That seems to be a paralyzing limiter when vying against an enemy that has no hesitation toward utilizing human shields or staging civilian atrocities.

Posted by Render at May 24, 2010 9:44 AM ET:

As long as the enemy has safe havens where US Marines are not allowed to root them out and crush them like the vermin they are...

The impression is all too understandable.

I've read the COIN manual (FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5), several of them in fact. In my opinion the pre-WW2 versions (Chesty Puller) were much better suited to what we're currently dealing with in the AfPak theater.


COIN is designed (at least the current version) to deal with an internal enemy.

This enemy is not just internal. They do not recognize the Durand Line. They are based externally and they receive support from several well known external sources. Until those two issues are addressed (and they are not in The Manual) this war is not winnable.

There are other AfPak theater related issues mentioned in FM 3-24 that have not been addressed as well. Not the least of which is the lack of overall Afghan support for their current government. Which, if you'll pardon the pun, renders this war unwinnable, even by the manual.

Note carefully the wording of chapter 8-1 of FM 3-24 (logistics). Now compare what is written there with the landlocked Afghan theater and the MSR's running through enemy held territory in Pakistan.


Maybe nation-building should wait until the war is over?

Throw out the manuals. Find the enemy, fix the enemy, kill the enemy. Wherever they are...

Take Miram Shah and burn it to the ground. All of it.


Posted by Mike at May 24, 2010 9:58 AM ET:

Anyone else reminded of the scene from Monty Python's Holy Grail, when the knights attacked the French castle by charging the stone wall and hitting it with their swords? Of course that attack was thwarted by the French hurling livestock, along with insults, over the wall at the marauding knights...

Posted by Atiyyatullah at May 24, 2010 11:01 AM ET:

The war is fought on CNN. If the Taliban can inflict 1,000+ NATO deaths in a year the war people will begin pulling out. If they can inflict 1,000+ American deaths, then it will only be a matter of months before America is gone. If Taliban demands are not met with the American soldier they have, then you can expect to see his head all over the internet just as the news channels begin questioning the war again as casualties pick up.

Meanwhile, you are going to continue to be attacked from Yemen, Pakistan, and soon the Western Sahara. Al-Qa'ida will emphasize the fact that it is not even in Afghanistan, and America will be faced with the decision of either expanding their wars and their debt, or bending to the demands of the mujahidiin.

Currently Obama and his generals are pushing for a "decisive" Kandahar offensive. However, what they fail to mention is that this offensive is only decisive for America. If the Taliban lose it, then nothing really happens to them. If America loses, then its own generals may throw in the towel.

The key to fighting an occupation is not winning, but waiting. So long as there are a handful of people willing to wait around in the mountains for America to leave, then they have won.

Posted by Bungo at May 24, 2010 4:34 PM ET:

Good comments by all. Most are spot on.

In my mind the key to the Afghan theater is the Pakistani "Safe Havens". With them the Taliban can last indefinitly. Without them they are ineffective and untenable. All else, including "Clear and Hold" and "Hearts and Mind" strategies are a very distant second.

Posted by James at May 24, 2010 8:05 PM ET:

I wish that all you "arm chair" critics out there would quit being such doubters. Have at least some faith.

You can see at least some good with the bad in these reports. For instance, several attacks were successfully repelled by (surprisingly to me at least) Afghan police.

The true test of any defense should be not the mere fact that it's there, but how it responds, especially when it's under siege. Concerning at least the Afghan police's response to what Bill reports above, I am impressed.

No government official should be allowed to use the excuse of "public" or even "world opinion," to surrender or acquiesce to terrorists. Public opinion can come and go like the tides.

Like MacArthur said, "There is no substitute for victory," to which I'd like to add, there will be no excuse for defeat.

If they were to decide to "cut & run" (hopefully they won't), don't blame me, don't blame the public or even the American people, they should have nobody to blame, but themselves.

What is this thing becoming, a global popularity contest?

Posted by T Ruth at May 25, 2010 12:03 PM ET:

James, oh i have faith in this:

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
John Lennon

I have more faith in what Lennon said than what all politicians say. Because the man had understood Life. Moreover, Life is a living thing and no politician has a crystal ball on stuff like this serious war and so hold to a self imposed deadline emphatically. There are too many variables at play.

Also i have full faith in the US Army if they were given the keys to the safe havens (as Bungo and Render rightly point out), so we could have a full-on war. The Pakistan army may be a match for the weakling that is their Govt but otherwise forget it, they haven't won a thing in their lives.

However if the havens are kept off bounds, don't expect any magic, no matter what deals are struck through talks, they are all rank blackguards and they all need to be broken.

Finally Pak's nukes need to extracted by hook or by crook. This is even more important than Iran by a long mile. Pakistan has amply proven itself of being consistently irresponsible and it has to rid of such lethality for the sake of the whole planet. This Long War is not going to result in a peace until that objective is satisfied, that is so obvious.

Posted by madashell59 at May 25, 2010 12:09 PM ET:

"Retiredfromthemilitary": First thanks for your service. I must disagree with your comments "There is neither North Vietnam nor China/USSR to sustain the Taliban". I believe they are via China/USSR in attempt to bring down the US financially like Reagan did to the USSR during the Cold War. Why do you think China and the USSR continue to block any potentially effective sanctions on Iran. And UBL relatives in custody in Iran; more like protective custody. What kind of weapons are the Taliban and other terror organizations using? There is a supply chain coming out of Iran in the west and the east and we can not cut it off.
As far as I am concerned we should be boycotting anything coming from the USSR, China, Venazula (spelling?), and now even Brazil and Turkey (uranium swap).
Iran is both the financial and spiritual leader for this war and they are back by numerous Communist countries in one form or another.

Posted by Zeissa at May 25, 2010 3:13 PM ET:

CJordan, they're not insane. They're believers of a radical version of a warrior religion.

Posted by pedestrian at May 25, 2010 11:27 PM ET:

The commander of Kandahar Air Field and Bagram Air Field is an IDIOT for not installing C-RAM Centurion.

Posted by James at May 26, 2010 12:42 AM ET:

T Ruth, I agree with you 100% concerning Pakistan.

They've been basically (for the most part) stabbing US in the back on this thing from day one.

I'm sure that John Lennon would have inspired US to have gotten on the side with India. We and the Brits have so much more in common with India versus Pakistan by a long shot.

Happy Krishna.

Posted by Zeissa at May 27, 2010 7:10 AM ET:

Wasn't John Lennon a useless hippie?

Posted by john at May 29, 2010 5:29 PM ET:

Since Lennon was quoted why don't we take the approach from Shakespeare?

"Cry 'Havoc', and let slip the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial"

When the powers that be let this happen then and only then will we see progress. The world and the American population will not like it, but its better than seeing more dead service members, or attacks on our soil. The local Khandahar militias are also and excellent tool that one needs to be reined in to follow some sort of code, but also on the other hand let loose. A westerner can't access the places these guys can walk right up to without a second glance no matter how hard we try. The fact that we have convinced these men to be in a militia to begin with is a feat in itself, those of you who know the Afghan populace is tough to motivate without the promise of monetary gains, sense of service and loyalty to country are not in their vocabulary for the most part. We need to give them guidance, targets and turn them loose and fire back up the nighttime raids otherwise we are fighting a war we will never win in my humble opinion

Posted by Phil at April 25, 2011 12:39 PM ET:

The Taliban are not keeping there word. Pakistan need to get a grip on terrorism. Phil@seo manchester