A Taliban suicide assault team was repelled today while trying to breach the perimeter at Kandahar Airfield, one of NATO’s largest bases in Afghanistan.
A team of six heavily armed Taliban fighters, two of whom were wearing suicide vests, were stopped by Coalition troops outside the main gate at Kandahar Airfield, the largest logistics NATO hub in the Afghan south. More than 10,000 Coalition soldiers and contractors are based at the airfield.
“Six suicide bombers penetrated into the Kandahar airport,” a statement released by the provincial administration read, according to Xinhua. “Two of them blew themselves up and the four others were killed by security forces.”
The Taliban started the assault with a rocket attack on the airfield. The six Taliban attackers were killed after a gunbattle that lasted for nearly an hour. During the fighting, one Coalition soldier and two civilians were wounded.
Today’s assault on Kandahar Airfield is the second Taliban attack on the airfield since May, when another small team attempted to breach security after launching a rocket attack on the base. Within the same time period, the Taliban have also launched assaults against Jalalabad Airfield in Nangarhar province in the east, Bagram Airbase in Parwan province in central Afghanistan, and against several smaller outposts in the south and east. All of the attacks were successfully repelled by Coalition and Afghan forces.
The Taliban also carried out a suicide assault against the Afghan National Civil Order Police headquarters in Kandahar City on July 13. Three US soldiers were killed in the attack, which included a suicide car bomber and a follow-on assault team.
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 year, the Taliban announced that they would begin operation Al Faath, or Victory, on May 10. The Taliban said they would target Coalition and Afghan forces, their bases, the Afghan government, security and logistics companies, and anyone supporting the “foreign forces.”
Background on the Taliban’s operations in Kandahar
As part of the Taliban’s offensive in Kandahar, the terror group has targeted tribal leaders, politicians, and other elites for assassination. More than 20 people, including the district chief for Arghandab and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City, have been killed over the past several months. Three days ago, the Taliban assassinated a tribal leader in the strategic Arghandab district just north of Kandahar city.
The Taliban’s military commander in Kandahar is Mullah Muhammad Isa Akhund. In an interview with Al Sumud, a Taliban magazine, Akhund claimed that nearly all of Kandahar is under Taliban control.
“The situation in Kandahar is favorable to the mujahedeen, with the grace of God, and the mujahedeen are present in effective and influential ways in the city of Kandahar, the farther districts, the surrounding areas, and the crucial roads of the province,” Akhund told Al Sumud. “It is known to all that the mujahedeen control the rural areas of the country.”
Top leaders at the International Security Assistance Force and US politicians have described Kandahar as the strategic center of the country, and said the province is key to defeating the Taliban.
Over the past five months, ISAF has targeted top Taliban leaders in Kandahar in a series of raids. Key Taliban commanders recently killed in the province include Haji Agha, the Taliban’s military commander for the Panjwai, Dand, and Zhari districts in Kandahar; Mullah Zergay, the Taliban’s leader for Kandahar City and the districts of Zhari and Arghandab; and Izzatullah, the Taliban’s military commander for Panjwai.
At the end of July, ISAF stated that its operations are impacting the Taliban’s command and control in the key province. “Since June, security forces have conducted several clearing operations within Kandahar province capturing more than 125 suspected insurgents, including numerous Taliban leaders,” the ISAF press release stated. “Coalition Forces have also discovered and destroyed several IED factories, and a large number of IEDs and automatic weapons.”