1 The Long War Journal: New details emerge about complex attack on FOB Salerno

Written by Bill Ardolino and Bill Roggio on June 10, 2012 12:54 AM to 1 The Long War Journal

Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/06/new_details_emerge_a.php


The Post Exchange (PX) and other buildings were damaged in the attack on Forward Operating Base Salerno.

New details have emerged regarding last week's Taliban attack on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province, Afghanistan. Although the insurgents were repelled by US and Afghan government forces, the bombing was more significant than implied by initial reports, and had the potential to inflict greater casualties.

Initial summaries of the complex attack indicated that members of the Taliban, including several individuals wearing suicide vests, had launched a coordinated assault that breached the perimeter of the American facility. A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into the base's fence, and attackers entered through the gap. The insurgents were then "neutralized" by US and Afghan forces, according to a Regional Command - East spokesman. Fourteen militants were killed in the assault. International Security Forces (ISAF) personnel were initially reported to have "suffered minor wounds", but none were killed during the attack. One soldier died three days later from wounds suffered during the incident, however.

Photos of the aftermath show considerable damage, including caved in roofs of the base's large dining facility (DFAC) and post exchange (PX). An RC-East spokesman has specified that the damage to the facilities was a result of the large blast wave from the initial car bomb.

"The insurgents only made it roughly 50-60 meters inside the FOB before they were engaged and taken down," explained the military spokesman. "The damage the DFAC and PX sustained [were] from the concussion of the blast," which was estimated to include 1,500-2,000 pounds of explosives.

In addition, the RC East spokesman revealed that the attackers were wearing uniforms of both the Afghan National Security Forces and the US Army. The spokesman also stated that seven civilians were killed, all of them inside the wire, on the premises of the base.

FOB Salerno is the largest base in southeastern Afghanistan - it is highly fortified, and hosts extensive surveillance assets and a US rotary wing task force.

The Taliban claimed credit for the attack immediately afterward, in a statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad. The Taliban followed up the initial claim with a more detailed account, which was released on Voice of Jihad on June 8.

According to the more detailed Taliban account, the suicide bomber was named Mawlawi Sahib Shamsullah, and he was "a resident of Paktia" who "sacrificed his luxurious life in Khaleej [the Persian Gulf], a thriving business, bounties of the world and the love of his 4 children for Allah." Shamsullah was chosen because he "was familiar with the surrounding area."

The Taliban said that the bomber "drove his explosive packed vehicle with absolute assurance right up to the American base and detonated it at the appropriate time." The terror group claimed that the "nearly ten ton explosion completely flattened the enemy facilities in which the American invaders were feeding, set several areas on fire and completely destroyed a transport airplane which had parked nearby only a few moments before the blast." ISAF did not report the damage or destruction of an aircraft in the attack, nor has this been reported in other media accounts. The Taliban routinely exaggerate the effects of their attacks.

The names and home provinces of the 10 members of the suicide assault team who followed the blast and breached the wire were included in the statement.

"Simultaneously after the blast, the ten armed martyrdom seekers (Azeem Khan from Paktia; Ateequllah, Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Ya'qub, Ibraheemi and Kareemullah from Ghazni province's Gilan district; Zabihullah Shabir from Ghazni's Maqur district; Hafiz Saifullah from Paktika's Khushamand; Amdadullah from Paktika's Wazikhwa; Abdullah from Nangarhar and Abdur Raheem from Logar) who had arrived at the scene in a mini van, set fire to their vehicle and zealously entered the American base."

The Taliban claimed the "enemy [was] in compete disarray after suffering heavy losses from the blast," and that the suicide assault team fought for nearly three hours and killed "hundreds of American soldiers." As part of their propaganda campaign, the Taliban claim that scores of US and NATO troops are killed daily.

While the Taliban claimed credit for the attack on FOB Salerno, it was likely executed by the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup that is linked to al Qaeda and which operates extensively in Khost province. The Haqqani Network rarely produces propaganda tapes and allows Voice of Jihad to highlight the group's attacks. The Haqqani Network has launched multiple complex attacks on US and Afghan bases in Khost and neighboring Paktia and Paktika provinces.


FOB Salerno's dining facility (DFAC) was damaged by the shockwave from a suicide vehicle-borne IED detonated at the perimeter of the base..

Note: This article was amended with updated casualty information. Nature of the vehicle updated as ambiguous due to conflicting reports.

UPDATE: Casualties now stand at 14 insurgents, 2 US troops and 5 Afghan civilians killed and over 100 US troops with 'minor injuries,' according to a Washington Post report on June 16th.