The Haqqani Network suffered heavy losses in yesterday’s massed assault on a US combat outpost in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika. The International Security Assistance Force estimated that 78 Haqqani Network fighters were killed and said two more were captured, while Afghan officials claimed that more than 80 fighters had been killed.
Haqqani Network forces launched the attack just after midnight on Oct. 30, attacking Combat Outpost Margah in Paktika’s Bermal district from four sides while mortar and rocket teams fired on the troops.
The Haqqani Network was backed by fighters from al Qaeda as well as the Taliban, and several hundred fighters as well as a large support element are believed to have participated in the attack, a US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The top US generals in the region attributed good intelligence and a well-sited observation post with aiding in the defeat of the Haqqani Network assault.
“We had multiple indicators an attack like this was going to happen in that area in an attempt to gain victory before the end of the fighting season, and our combined Afghan and coalition forces were ready for them,” said Major General John Campbell, the commanding general of Regional Command-East.
“COP Margah has a squad-sized observation element on the high ground near the COP to provide early warning to the main base,” Brigadier General Stephen Townsend, the operations chief for Regional Command East, said. “Not only did the Soldiers and Afghan Border Policemen warn of the attack, they also disrupted it for approximately 20 minutes allowing the main defense to decisively respond. Once their mission was complete, they repositioned to reinforce the main defense.”
Since late August, the Haqqani Network has carried out six major assaults against US combat outposts in Khost, Paktika, and Paktia provinces. US and Afghan troops defeated all of the attacks, often inflicting heavy casualties on Haqqani Network forces. [For more information on the recent and previous assaults, see LWJ report, US troops repel Haqqani Network assault on eastern Afghan base.]
Top US military commanders, including General David Petraeus, have claimed that the Haqqani Network’s leadership has been disrupted by the heavy regimen of special operations forces raids that have killed or captured scores of mid- and senior-level commanders and facilitators.
Some US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal disagree, however, and said the latest attack is an indication that the Haqqani Network remains cohesive, despite the failure of the attack.
“Planning, organizing, and executing a complex attack involving hundreds of fighters, mortar teams, and support elements requires command and control, and the Haqqanis still have those capabilities,” a military intelligence officer said. “As long as they are untouchable in Pakistan, they’ll be able to carry out attacks such as the one at COP Margah. And they only need to succeed once; overrunning a US base would have a devastating impact.”