Afghan, US forces repel coordinated Taliban suicide assaults

Afghan and US forces repelled coordinated Taliban assaults in two major cities in eastern Afghanistan. Suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles attacked government installations and a US base in the cities of Gardez and Jalalabad. Eight Taliban fighters and six Afghan security personnel were reported killed in the failed attacks.

In Gardez in Paktia province, six suicide bombers, some wearing the full-length burkas worn by Afghan women, attacked government buildings, including the provincial intelligence office, but were gunned down as they attempted to storm the buildings.

Three intelligence officials were killed when one of the suicide bombers detonated his vest outside the intelligence department. The other five suicide bombers and two policemen were killed during gun battles outside a police station and the governor’s house. One of the suicide bombers detonated his vest outside the Paktia governor’s home.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, took credit for the attack and claimed 15 heavily suicide bombers were involved in the attack.

In Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, police and US forces killed two suicide bombers as they attempted to attack a forward operating base at the airport outside the city. Another bomber was captured, the US military said. One policeman was killed while repelling the Taliban strike.

Nangarhar province and Jalalabad have been relatively secure compared to other areas in eastern Afghanistan.

The attack in Paktia was likely carried out by the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group with close ties to al Qaeda. The Haqqanis run operations in Paktia, Paktika, Khost and neighboring provinces.

The Paktia attack took place as US forces are conducting operations to find the soldier who was captured by the Haqqani Network on June 30.

The attack in Jalalabad was likely carried out by the Tora Bora Front, a Taliban group under the command of Anwar Ul Haq Mujahid, who has close ties with al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network. Mujahid is the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, a senior mujahedeen leader based in the eastern province of Nangarhar, who was famous for battling the Soviet Union during the occupation from 1979-1989. Yunis Khalis was also instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden into Afghanistan after he was ejected from the Sudan in 1996. Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, served as a commander under Khan during the war with the Soviets.

In June, Mujahid was reported to have been captured by Pakistani security forces during a visit to Peshawar.

Today’s assaults in Paktia and Nangarhar provinces are the latest in a series of complex attacks and other strikes aimed at police and government centers in Afghanistan since January 2008 [see list below]. Taliban bombers and assault teams have carried out sophisticated strikes in Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Nimroz, Nuristan, and Khost.

The last such attack took place on May 12, when a squad of suicide bombers assaulted government and security installations in Khost. A string of bombings rocked Khost City as the Haqqani Network fighters attempted to penetrate security at the installations but were beaten back by Afghan and US security forces. The Haqqani Network also set ambushes for US and Afghan forces as they responded to the attacks from nearby bases. Eleven Taliban fighters and nine civilians were killed in the day-long assault.

Over the past two years, the Taliban attacks have become more sophisticated and more effective. The Taliban receive training for such attacks at training facilities in Pakistan’s northwest as well as in Baluchistan province. Taliban fighters train with al Qaeda and other allied jihadi groups inside Pakistan, and some Taliban fighters become members of al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, the elite paramilitary force operating in the Afghan/Pakistani border region.

List of major complex and suicide attacks in Afghanistan since January 2008

July 21, 2009: Suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles attacked government installations and a US base in the cities of Gardez and Jalalabad. Eight Taliban fighters and six Afghan security personnel were reported killed in the failed attacks.

May 12, 2009: The Taliban launched a multi-pronged suicide attack against government and security installations in Khost province, a stronghold of the deadly Haqqani Network. Eleven Taliban fighters and nine civilians were killed in the day-long assault.

April 1, 2009: Four Taliban suicide bombers disguised as Afghan soldiers attempted to kill the Kandahar provincial council after entering the compound. Security forces foiled the attack but seven civilians and six policemen were killed during the fighting.

March 30, 2009: A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform penetrated security at a police compound in Kandahar’s Andar district and killed five policemen and four civilians after detonating his vest.

Feb. 11, 2009 The Taliban conducted a multi-pronged assault on two Afghan ministries and a prison headquarters in the capital of Kabul that resulted in 19 people killed and more than 50 wounded.

Feb. 2, 2009: A suicide bomber detonated his vest inside a training center for police reservists in the town of Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province. Twenty-one Afghan police were killed and seven more were wounded in the suicide attack.

Dec. 4, 2008: A three-man suicide team stormed the headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence service in Khost province. Six intelligence and police officials were killed and another seven were wounded.

Sept. 7, 2008: Two Taliban suicide bombers entered a police headquarters in Kandahar province and searched for a senior police general in charge of border security at the Spin Boldak crossing point. Six policemen were killed and 37 were wounded, including the general, in the bombings.

Sept. 6, 2008: A Taliban suicide bomber penetrated a secure government building in the southwestern province of Nimroz and detonated his vest. The attack killed six people, including Nimroz province’s intelligence chief and his 20-year-old son.

On April 27, 2008: A Taliban assault team attempted to assassinate President Karzai during a military parade outside Kabul. Two members of parliament were killed and 11 others were wounded during the barrage of automatic gunfire and mortar shells.

Jan. 14, 2008: A suicide assault team from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network raided the heavily secured Serena Hotel. Terrorists wearing suicide vests breached the front gate with a suicide attack and then entered the hotel and began shooting civilians. A Norwegian journalist, an American aid worker, and at least five security guards were killed in the assault.

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



  • brian says:

    gardez is in paktia province not khost province

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Corrected, thanks for the heads up. Talk about compounding an error…

  • BW says:

    Do the Taliban truly have an unlimited supply of “highly trained” suicide attackers? In the end isn’t thsi self defeating?

  • Zastros says:

    Pakistan is infested with hundreds of thousands of militants, make no mistake about it. The situation is truly grave, the government has done well in SWAT and Buner, but this is only the beginning if they want to tame this tiger.
    As far back as 1998, the LeT held a demonstration in Lahore that drew 500,000 supporters, and Jammat-i-Islami that same year drew a crowd in Islamabad of the same number! These two groups are but two allies of the Taliban, and even the ISI has stated the Taliban alone number at least 100,000.
    A ‘long war’ in the making, indeed. Decades to resolve this… if ever.

  • TLA says:

    Hmmm! Do you think that Allah is in favor of cross-dressing suicide bombers?
    Or will the access to paradise be foiled by their wearing the burqas?

  • Render says:

    Something tells me that the US can make small arms ammo a lot faster then the enemy can make suicide bombers.

  • Matt says:

    Fantastic post Bill. This stuff is critical to my industry, because contractors man the gates to these FOBs and installations as well. Thanks to your good work on assembling the trends, there will be guys out there that can make good decisions for their site security plans so they can properly defend these sites. Cheers.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/22/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • john ryan says:

    The attacks succeeded at least partly.

  • My2cents says:

    They do not have an unlimited supply of suicide bombers, it just seems so because the supply exceeds the rate at which the support teams that prepare and deploy them can do so. The key to reducing the number of successful suicide attacks is to identify and eliminate these teams. Without the support teams the typical suicide bomber recruit lacks the knowledge and disappline to carry out an attack.

  • Zastros says:

    Since 2001, the Taliban have about 35,000 KIA, and about 40,000 arrested by NATO, the US and Pakistan. Their attacks have not slowed in the least, and the vast Pashtun manpower is one of their main strengths. They *do* have enough bombers to fight for decades, they have proven it thus far. I wish the war was over tomorrow, but thats simply not going to happen.

  • Wondook says:

    The Taliban suicide bombings are averaging three events per week since 2007 on a fairly reliable level. The complex attacks were a once every three months phenomenon in 2008
    and in 2009 became a nearly monthly feature. In each of these attacks several bombers are used. There is a constant stream since 2007 of pre-empted / premature explosions numbering about 50% of the successful suicide attacks. Year on year total increases range around 10-20% in devices. This makes me think we’re far from dealing with an unlimited number of suicide bombers in the AFPAK theatre. The volunterrs are not the key variable, but it’s the support teams (as noted correctly by M2cents above) and even before that the vetting and training capacities which are the real variable (actually more a constant it seems). They recruit from a more skilled and dedicated pool which grows very slowly (taking into account also the numerous arrests and otherwise neutralisation actions of SIED cells – small arms ammo playing actually a minor role here). Let’s keep in mind that they have limits therefore too!


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram