Taliban launch deadly attack on a combat outpost in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province

The Taliban launched a complex attack against a newly established combat outpost in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nuristan. Heavy fighting is currently underway, and US forces have taken multiple casualties in the attack. Nine US soldiers have been killed during the battle.

The Taliban launched the attack early this morning at approximately 4:30 AM according to a press release from the International Security Assistance Force. The Taliban initiated the battle “with small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars using homes, shops and the mosque in the village of Wanat for cover.”

Afghan and US forces based at the outpost have fought back and called in artillery and helicopter support and airstrikes.

Afghan, US, and Taliban casualties had not been released as the fighting is ongoing, but ISAF reported that “there have been casualties on both sides of the fight.” The Associated Press reported that nine US soldiers have been killed. ISAF later confirmed nine US troops were killed, and 15 US soldiers and four Afghan troops were wounded. The attack is one of the largest incidents of US casualties during a ground engagement in Afghanistan.

In separate incident in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 24 Afghans and wounded more than 40 in a deadly suicide attack at a market. Security officials said Afghan police were the target, and several policemen were reported killed in the attack.

In Helmand province, US Marines and Afghan forces have killed over 40 Taliban fighters after being ambushed by a 75-man force in the Sangin district. More than 30 Taliban boats and several bridges were also destroyed during the engagement. The day prior, a suicide bomber killed two Afghan soldiers and two children in an attack on an Afghan Army base in Sangin.

Today’s attacks play directly into al Qaeda and the Taliban’s propaganda and military strategy. The Taliban have launched a series of assaults on US and Afghan bases and patrol and government centers throughout the eastern regions of Afghanistan that border Pakistan’s tribal areas. The extremists hope to destabilize the Afghan government and overrun an outpost or district center as a show of strength.

Al Qaeda spokesman and Afghan commander Abu Yahya al Libi released a seven-minute videotape earlier this week titled “A Message To One of the Sheiks.” Al Libi said the attacks on Coalition bases and suicide attacks show the Taliban is gaining strength and is “determined to turn the upcoming winter to hell for the infidels.” The Taliban in Afghanistan “are going through continuous triumphs … and are in a better shape compared with what they had been before,” he stated.

Correction: ISAF identified the outpost as being located in the town of Wanat in Kunar province. AIMS maps also identify Wanat as being located in Kunar. The town straddles the provincial boundary between Kunar and Nuristan, and Afghan officials state the town is in Nuristan. This entry has been update to reflect that Wanat is in Nuristan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Steve-o says:

    I’m anxiously awaiting any updates, and hoping the casualty figure is an error.

  • Rhys says:

    Apparently they think that using a mosque for cover gives them immunity from heavy attack. I think they should read about Monte Cassino.

  • JOHN says:

    Kick ’em to the curb boys. Knowing our forces, they bit off more than they’ll be able to chew. Send as many as you can to meet their maker. God Bless our Troops.

  • Mary says:

    As a mother, I can tell you that these people are evil to the core of their beings. I feel like buying a ticket to Afganistan and mowing them down myself – and I am a pretty good shot. Learned from hunting with my dad. I’m praying for our troops. They are doing a good job. American heros all.

  • A Frenchman says:

    We whipped the Nazi’s and the fanatic Jap. The Taliban will feel the heat and wish they never messed with America – land of the FREE and home of the BRAVE. These people are complete clones who have drunk the koolaid – if you can’t reason with them and stop them from ruining people’s lives – the only alternative is to kill them. God be with you Americans.

  • jimboy says:

    The Americans will kick Taliban rear.

  • Paul says:

    The American troops LIVE to kick Taliban rear. They are using their skill and their smarts to destroy this enemy of mankind. I am praying hard for the troops. They are my heroes. The cowardly woman-beating taliban deserve to go to be judged by the Almighty who loves all mankind and doesn’t agree with child killing, woman beating extemists. These people are beady eyed nuts. They need to be either captured or rubbed out.

  • don juice says:

    i love these comments by my fellow americans and i want to let all the anti-americans know that we never lost a war not even in vietnam and we will crush the taliban and mark my words WE WILL KILL OR CAPTURE OSAMA so sit back and enjoy the show!

  • MarkJ says:

    I am praying for the safety of our troops at this moment.
    However, what this story tells me is that the Taliban attacked this outpost precisely because we’re now on the offensive and directly threatening an area in which the Taliban previously felt safe. The Taliban assault may have resulted as much from desperation as anything else.
    Taliban casualties are a matter of speculation, but if they’re anything like what they suffered in the Helmand Province engagement, we may have whacked 50% or more of the attacking force during the battle–a devastating Taliban defeat.
    Tell will tell….

  • KaneKaizer says:

    Very sad news. As well as 24 civilians and Afghan police killed by a suicide bomber. There is good news, 40 Taliban killed in a two day battle.
    Hopefully, especially after the Taliban ambushed those Pakistani soldiers, we’ll eventually get Pakistan to chuck the peace deals and assault the Taliban in their own country so that we can put an end to this.

  • KW64 says:

    An interesting editorial in Investor’s Business Daily saying authorization had been given for special operations inside Pakistan. Web address is below.
    The lesson in Vietnam was that if you allow the enemy a safe haven, and give him the choice of where and when to conduct battle, a smaller weaker enemy can prevail as the larger defender finds he cannot protect everywhere in sufficient force all the time. Somehow, we need to seize the initiative from the enemy in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theatre.

  • Contra1 says:

    May retribution for this act be swift and furious. My thoughts and prayers of heartfelt sympathy to those loved ones who have lost the companionship of these defenders of freedom and honor. Their sacrifice will not be in vain, we will do what has to be done to defeat these enemies.
    The reports so far indicate this was a recently established COP. I have not seen a definition of ‘recent’ in any report so far. The complex attack element indicates the enemy is learning. We are damn good at that too. The follow-up on this incident hopefully will provide valuable intel and training material.

  • Libertarian says:

    By their wounds we are kept safe; by their blood we are kept free; there is no greater love than to give your life for your friend(and neighbor and stranger)

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    KW64 is right. As long as we let them operate freely in P-stan, this could go on for years. We must find a new logistics path, that excludes P-stan. Hitting those camps around the clock, and choppering in troops to clean up is the only way. The P-stanis continue to backpeddle, and they don’t even govern these areas. We could crush them if the military got the green light. 9 KIA is bad, those families must be distraught. My prayers are with them, and my hopes are for the US military to bomb those 30+ camps to DUST.

  • Raj Kumar says:

    While I share your pain. I am sorry to say that the USG is directly responsible for this. We, by that I mean the west, have had ample opportunity since 2001 to read the riot act to the Government of Pakistan.
    We have not done it, instead we have delivered boat loads of gear pained green and plane loads of $ bills for what!!! So that our troops get shot at!!!
    The Government of Pakistan has either by acts of ommission or commission attacked the armed forces of the United States and we sit here dreaming of kicking butt.
    As a minimum we should be calling up our respective representatives in Congress/Westminster and demading that they put a stop to this. The USG has very simply to tell the Government of Pakistan that either it sends its armed forces into the Taliban areas and engages the Taliban fully or it will loose all access to western markets and western aid.
    If the Government of Pakistan does not follow up on what the USG wants then the B52 better warm up their engines.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    Raj’s comments related to reading the riot act to Pakistan are very alluring.
    There is certainly truth to the allegations that the GoP (gvt of pakistan) has allowed AQ and the Taliban to flourish in the tribal areas bordering on A-stan. And whatever the exact details, the Bush admin did seem to deliver an ultimatum of sorts to the GoP just after 9/11 that resulted in a dramatic shift by the GoP (or at least the parts that Musharraf could control) in favor of the U.S.
    All the same, though, the same type of ultimatums in 2008 are unlikely to be as effective as they were in 2001 and, unfortunately, could be counter-productive. We are no longer dealing with the same Pakistan that existed in 2001. Rather than being run by a strong-man, P-stan is now a fractured country with several factions striving for control and direction. The P-stan military and intelligence services, themselves, are split between those who favor the islamists and those who support a more secular state. If we cut off all aid or threaten as much, the likely outcome is pushing more of the GoP and P-stani military into the islamist camp, if for no other reason than to save face. Then we wind up with a nuclear-armed P-stan that is openly supportive of the Taliban and AQ. Then what do we do? Invade P-stan in order to secure the nukes? Not a very attractive option.
    Perhaps the better approach would be to deliver very private messages to the GoP that we respect their sovereignty and their approach to dealing with their islamofascist problem, *but* only so far as they can exercise that sovereignty. So, if the GoP is either unwilling or unable to prevent the establishment of camps within P-stan or prevent the large-scale incursions into A-stan, the U.S. will take the approach that P-stani sovereignty has been abdicated in those areas and we will treat them under international law as, essentially, lawless, non-state territories, much as past nations have treated havens of piracy and banditry. (See, for example, the actions taken by the U.S. across the border with Mexico in the days of Pancho Villa). We do not need to announce our attacks or advertise them (although word will no doubt get out), and we do not intend to occupy territory in P-stan. But, on the other hand, it might be possible at some point to convince some Pashtun tribal leaders that the taliban and AQ are bad news for them (especially after they see, like the Anbaris did in Iraq how these fascists behave) that they would do better to throw their lot in with the U.S. Depending upon the situation on the ground, special forces might be able to spend time in the tribal areas with allied tribes and call on air strikes to defend against Taliban reprisals and hit targets of opportunity, in much the same way as we did in A-stan in 2001.

  • Jamaluddin says:

    An 11 hour attack? This sounds like regular troops. Taliban fire a few rounds and run like scared rabbits. Are we sure the Pak Army wasn’t directly involved in this? If so, that and the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul could be the proverbial straw.

  • Neo says:

    “An 11 hour attack? This sounds like regular troops.”

  • Neo says:

    Unfortunately, there are going to be more bad days and big firefights to come. Right now isn’t the time to freak out about this. The US army can definitely handle the current level of fighting. This is a far cry from what was happening to Soviet forces. We do need more troops in Afghanistan to better repulse these incursions, but that too will increase the level of fighting at least in the short term.
    There is no threat of US forces being overwhelmed by the Taliban at this point. The unstable situation in Pakistan and the yapping pundits back home are what will eventually unravel this whole thing.

  • Alex says:

    I have a feeling that there are some “black ops” with Special Forces currently going on in Pakistan that we just never hear about. It has come to light from time to time, like when we hear about cross-border missile strikes (where did we get the intel on where to strike? My guess is SOF on the ground…).
    The thing is, at least for what we’ve seen now, if I am right in saying that there are covert operations, it’s still a pinprick. Let’s not underestimate our enemy here; they’re not going to go down too easily.

  • Cajun says:

    Waiting for an update. The MSM is only interested in the U.S. body count. Tactical and strategic implications are important on this one due to the presidential election, change of command at Centcom and larger scale operations by the enemy.

  • doug says:

    I presume that they must have landed some mortar or other indirect fires into our FOB to get in…otherwise I don’t see how they could have inflicted such heavy damage to our guys. Do you have any insight into their tactics here?

  • libertarian says:

    Let us for a moment focus on what did NOT happen
    1.The Taliban/AQ FAILED in their objectives: overrun a new frwrd op. base and capture Americans
    2. The Base was not breached; an observation post was taken, which is where the casualties occured
    3. Despite an overwhelming numerical advantage and choice of timing and tactics, the enemy suffered many more casualties than we did
    In this battle WE won; THEY lost; stop lamenting; celebrate the victory and honor our dead

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post – From the Front: 07/14/2008 – News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Raj Kumar says:

    TS Alfabet,
    I am sorry but ‘private’ warnings will not work. I would be very surprised if the USG has not already warned the Government of Pakistan but it seems to have made no effect!!! If anything the effect is the opposite with the range & scale of the attacks on our forces increasing.
    At this point in time, the only thing which will have any effect on the Pakistani population & its ruling class is the display of a very BIG stick and the said use of this stick in a very public manner.
    If we don’t use this stick then I am willing to take a bet with anyone on this forum that we will face another major attack on the western public which will originate from Pakistan and if I am very unlucky then this attack will be nuclear in nature!!!
    I am very sorry to say that the cancer of extreme Islam has spread into the Punjab heartland of Pakistan and it is no longer a case of just the tribals. This cancer is also the logical end result of the wave of islamisation started by Zia after he came to power and Jinah’s wish to create an islamic state for the Indian muslims.
    I would be willing to bet you money that this attack used trained manpower supplied by LeT and other related forces who get their support from east of the river Indus and are very much part of the Pakistani mainstream/heartland.
    I would go so far as to say that it probably had planning help from serving officers of the Pakistani Army who are on ‘leave’.

  • elfman2 says:

    We are now essentially “island hopping”, with Afghanistan as the successor to Iraq. For reasons listed above, the Afghanistan/Pakistan border is not going to be closed, and neither we nor the Pakistanis are going to effectively end cross border support.

    We’re strategically shifting to hold Iraq while building effective counter insurgency ops in Eastern Afghanistan. We are pushing into areas that the Taliban have controlled for over 15 years. This is what fighting back looks like.

    While securing Afghani border areas, our objectives will probably include killing as many Taliban as possible and affecting Pakistani politics toward aggressive occupation of their Tribal Areas. We will likely attack the Taliban in Tribal Areas with greater frequency and force, but probably not overrun any area without Pakistani government involvement. If Pakistanis can not be convinced to take control, other options open up, but only after sufficient forces are in place with secure logistical support.

  • RJ says:

    The “highly organized attack” as reported was against a forward observation post (FOB)and occurred on the morning of the third day it was occupied and its defensive positions were still being built.
    The American force consisted of 45 Paratroopers and the Afgani Army personnel numbered 25.
    Estimated T-ban forces envolved were between 200 and 500 fighters. It consisted of fighters from several different jahidist bands and tribal units.
    The attack began immediately after the first call to daily prayer was sounded.
    The American and Afgan troops were caught by surprise, and the OP’s defensive perimeter position was breached.
    Dispite the breach and the inital surprise the defenders were able to contain the assualt and mount an attack that cleared the position and then fight off the 200 to 500 enemy fighters attacking them.
    An estimated 40 of the enemy were killed and many more were wounded and taken away from the scene of the attack.
    9 American Paratroopers were killed and 15 wounded and there are reports that 4 or 5 Afgan soldiers were wounded.
    The FOP was abandoned the day after the attack for tactical reasons.
    It has been a long time since I was in a fight, but this incident tells me that the attacking forces were not highly trained, as some journalists have reported. The surprise worked up to a point and then the better trained troops were able to react and respond with more force than the enemy could overcome. I’m talking about immediate reaction by the troops at the OP supress the initail assualt and stop it with a high volume of return fire.
    The paratropers returned fire and asualted the attackers immediately. They turned the tide and then stayed in contact with the enemy. This cause the enemy to stay too long trying to over come this small unit in the defense. Then the enemy became the target of the modern assest that are available to our infantry units.
    The US lost 9 good men and another 15 wounded, but that unit kicked a lot of butt and then held on to the enemy by its nose as they were pummeled
    by air and artillery assets.
    The T-Ban and a-Q fighters might be hell on horseback or pickup trucks. Attacking police posts and small Pakistani or Afgani units is right up their alley, and is the top end range of their capability. Getting caught out in the open by modern arms including the quick response air the Colition troops can call up is way over their heads.
    Just my humble opinion.
    After enough of them have been killed they will revert to road side bombs and we will see a rapid up grade in suicide bomber attacks on civilian population centers. City and Village markets, transportation hubs and resturants will receive more attention bythe fanatics than recruiting centers or military bases.
    That is the nature of the beast who has made us his enemy.


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