US and Afghan forces fought a major battle with the Taliban and “inflicted heavy casualties” on the force just miles from the Pakistani border on June 20, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 reported.
More than 55 Taliban fighters, including three senior leaders, were reported killed, 25 were wounded and three were captured by a combined air and ground counterattack after a Taliban force ambushed a patrol in Paktika province. “Patrols in the ambush area continue to report additional enemy casualties,” the US military reported.
The attack occurred in the northeastern corner of Paktika province, close to the Pakistani border on a road between the districts of Zirok and Orgun districts. The US Army maintains Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in the region to interdict Taliban cross border raids.
The region borders the lawless Pakistani tribal agency of North Waziristan, where cross border incidents are on the rise. On June 21, six rockets and mortars were fired from North Waziristan into Paktika province, killing one Afghan woman and three children.
The Pakistani Taliban maintains a stronghold in North Waziristan. The powerful Haqqani family is based in the region. The Haqqani family runs several mosques and madrassa, or religious schools, near Miramshah. The Pakistani government closed down the radical Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa after the US commenced Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, but the school was reopened in 2004. The Manba Ulom madrassa has been described as a center of jihadi activities, where top Taliban and al Qaeda commanders meet.
Siraj Haqqani, the son of renowned Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, is one of the senior Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. He has close ties to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. He has embraced al Qaeda’s tactics and ideology, and has recruited foreign terrorists to act as suicide bombers and operatives inside Afghanistan. Siraj is believed to be running the Haqqani Network in eastern Afghanistan and has become a focal point of Coalition operations. The US military has put out a $200,000 bounty for Siraj’s arrest. Taliban commanders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Sadiq Noor also operate in North Waziristan.
On March 12, the US military fired guided missiles from Afghanistan into a compound run by Siraj Haqqani, the wanted Taliban leader behind numerous attacks in Afghanistan. The attack is believed to have killed three senior Haqqani network commanders and “many” Chechen fighters.
The Taliban and al Qaeda are known to run 29 training camps in North and neighboring South Waziristan.
The Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in North Waziristan in February 2008. The prior agreement, signed in September 2006, resulted in the Taliban takeover of the district and an increase in attack inside both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Massed Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are on the rise since the spring, when the Taliban largely focused on suicide and roadside bomb attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces. The Taliban conducted a bold raid against a prison in Kandahar. More than 1,100 prisoners, including 400 Taliban fighters, were sprung from the Sarposa prison by a well-trained assault force.
Days later, an estimated 500 Taliban fighters took over a series of villages in the Arghandab district just north of the city of Kandahar. An Afghan battalion and Coalition forces immediately launched an assault and freed the district. An estimated 100 Taliban were reported killed in the fighting.
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