US and Afghan troops repelled a Taliban assault on a base in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least six fighters, in the latest Taliban attempt to overrun a US outpost.
A Taliban force, whose size has yet to be determined, opened fire on Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Behsud district in Nangarhar, which is at the Jalalabad city airport, an ISAF spokesman told The Long War Journal. The Taliban opened fire with small arms from “insurgent fighting positions,” the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release on the incident. A combined US and Afghan quick reaction force counterattacked the Taliban after identifying the enemy positions, and broke up the attack.
US troops said that six enemy fighters were killed during the counterattack. The combined force “recovered two suicide vests, multiple weapons and grenades near the dead insurgents.” No US or Afghan casualties were reported.
The Taliban claimed the attack in a statement released on its website, Voice of Jihad, and said it was carried out by “14 martyr-seeking Mujahideen equipped with heavy and small arms and explosives vests.” According to the Taliban, “37 US invaders were killed and 35 Afghan cowardly soldiers were killed or wounded during the face-to-face fighting and martyrdom operations, while 7 of the enemy trained dogs were killed.” Also, “9 US attack helicopters and 2 unmanned aerial vehicles” were destroyed. The Taliban also claimed 11 of its fighters were killed and three more escaped.
The Taliban wildly inflate or manufacture ISAF and Afghan casualties in the numerous press releases issued daily, claiming that scores of Coalition and Afghan soldiers and dozens of “tanks” are destroyed each day.
The use of a suicide vest indicates that al Qaeda or a Pakistan-based jihadist group was involved in the attack. Al Qaeda and Pakistani terror groups have carried out joint operations against US and Afghan forces in the east in the past.
Al Qaeda and the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba maintain a strong presence in Nangarhar province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Achin, Bati Kowt, Behsud, Chaparhar, Dara Noor, Deh Bala, Jalalabad, Khogyani, Sherzad, Shinwar, or 10 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.
Today’s assault in Behsud district is the latest Taliban attempt to overrun a US outpost in the east. The last such attack took place on Oct. 30 at Combat Outpost Margah in Paktika province. US forces routed the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda fighters who carried out the attack, killing more than 80 fighters.
Taliban leadership in the east
The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, and Kunar. Abdul Latif Mansur is thought to currently lead the Taliban’s Peshawar shura. It was led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his detention in Pakistan in February 2010. Media reports claimed that Kabir was in negotiations with the Afghan government, but Kabir released a statement on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s website, denouncing any talks.
A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996. Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009.
Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber. The majority of NATO’s supplies pass through Khyber and Nangarhar before reaching Kabul and points beyond.