Khost province, a restive area in eastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan’s tribal belt, has experienced a rash of deadly attacks throughout the winter season. The Taliban have launched a series of roadside bomb attacks and assassinated numerous local officials over the past few months. Suicide bombers, entering Khost from various transit routes in Pakistan, have also played a large role in destabilizing the security situation this winter.
Coalition forces along with Afghan National Army Commandos conducted a series of targeted raids against the Taliban’s improvised-explosive engineers and suspected bomb factories in December and February. The December raid netted a key insurgent bomb maker with established links to the Hezb-i-Islami (Hekmatyar faction), the Haqqani Network, and the Taliban. The unidentified commander based his operations out of Sabari district, a hotbed for Taliban and other insurgent groups in northern Khost province. The February raid succeeded in arresting Taliban commander Nasimullah, a key insurgent bomb maker for the Yaqoubi and Sabari districts.
The success of these raids would only be temporary as the Taliban and Haqqani Network quickly responded with a flurry of roadside bomb and landmine attacks against Afghan security forces. Between Feb. 12 and March 1, the Taliban conducted at least six bombings in Khost, including one suicide bombing, killing 15 and wounding 11 others in all.
On March 3, the Taliban conducted a combined suicide car bomb attack and frontal assault against the Sabri district headquarters in northern Khost. The force of the explosion collapsed a guard tower near the compound’s perimeter, killing two US soldiers and wounding many others, including Afghan policemen. Those two soldiers were Sergeant Robert Rapp and Specialist Steven Koch. This slideshow looks at the memorial ceremony honoring these fallen soldiers at Forward Operating Base Salerno on March 7.
Matt Dupee contributed to this report.