Nuristan base nearly destroyed in Taliban attack


Photo from March 2008: Afghan national army soldiers and Marine embedded tactical trainers struggle up the last part of a patrol from Forward Operating Base Keating to Combat Outpost Warheit in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, March 2. The patrol originated on the valley floor and ended near the top of the mountain. Photo by Staff Sergeant Brandon Aird.

ABC News has a must-read report on last weekend’s battle in the Kamdish district in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, which claimed eight US and seven Afghan soldiers, and more than 100 Taliban fighters. According to the report, the outer perimeter at Camp Keating, one of two bases, was penetrated by the attack force of Taliban and foreign fighters, estimated in strength at around 350 men. Much of the base caught fire and the Apache pilots who arrived on scene were stunned by the size of the large Taliban force involved in the assault. From the ABC News report:

By the time Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ross Lewallen and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chad Bardwell arrived over the embattled outpost, dubbed Camp Keating, parts were in flames and dozens of insurgents could be seen on the camp’s perimeter.

When the battle was over and the fire extinguished, many who survived had nothing left “except the clothes off their backs and the weapons in their hands,” one soldier told ABC News.

“When we first showed up and put our sensors on Keating, it was just kind of shock,” said Bardwell, 35, of Liman, Wyo., who piloted one of a swarm of Apaches that rushed the base’s defense. “All the amount of flames and the smoke and to see that amount of personnel running outside of their wire. It was really kind of shock.”

Lewallen added, “I’ve been on three deployments and I’ve never seen that large of a force attacking one static position.”

Over the weekend I saw a report that Camp Keating was destroyed, at a blog called Coffeypot from a Surgeon who works with Special Forces in the region, but was unable to confirm it. From the post :

Over a hundred T’ban / tribals stormed FOB Keating and a little outpost nearby. The US and Afghans had to be extracted by Air Force SF. They couldn’t get to us for 16-24 hours so they were in just awful shape. Keating is completely demolished. Really terrible. It clearly shows how AQ [al Qaeda] is much better at the propaganda phase of all this. McCrystal’s plans had us pulling out anyways. We had already quit the northern province. But now they will credit themselves with conquering all of Nuristan.

There is no word on the status of Combat Outpost Warheit, the smaller satellite base up the mountain near Camp Keating, which also was very likely the other base attacked.

The Taliban claim to have raised their flag in Kamdish, but the US military said its forces are still in the district, presumably at Camp Keating.

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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