US troops beat back the latest attempt by the Haqqani Network and the Taliban to overrun a combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan. The US troops killed more than 30 Haqqani Network fighters who carried out a coordinated, massed assault in Paktika province.
The attack began at 1:30 a.m. this morning, when the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network massed a large number of fighters outside Combat Outpost Margah, an International Security Assistance Force public affairs official told The Long War Journal. The fighters “attacked from all directions with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and mortar fire,” ISAF stated in a press release.
US troops returned fire and called in air and helicopter support against the enemy fighters. Aircraft launched three guided bombs at “an insurgent firing position” and attacked “a large number of insurgents near the outpost,” ISAF stated.
ISAF estimated that more than 30 of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network fighters were killed in the strike. Five US soldiers were wounded in the clash, “however all continued fighting.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Al Jazeera that the fighters inflicted “high casualties” on Afghan and ISAF forces after overrunning six Afghan police outposts. He claimed that only eight Haqqani Network fighters had been killed during the assault. But the Taliban exaggerate Afghan and Coalition casualties on a daily basis, often claiming that scores of troops are killed and dozens of “tanks” are destroyed.
The Taliban and its sub-group, the Haqqani Network, are seeking to overrun ISAF and Afghan outposts in an effort to gain a propaganda victory. The massed attacks are carried out by anywhere from 50 to 200 fighters, and are filmed by propaganda teams. Al Qaeda and other terror groups often participate in the attacks as well.
The attacks tend to begin early in the morning. Enemy forces usually commence the attack with mortar and rocket strikes, while waves of fighters move toward the outer perimeter and attempt to breach the wire. The enemy fighters seek to get as close to the base as possible to negate the ISAF air advantage; once inside the security perimeter ISAF air crews would have to risk firing on their own personnel.
Repeated Taliban assaults against remote US combat outposts in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and the near-overrunning of outposts in Kamdish and Wanat, contributed to the decision by ISAF to withdraw from several combat outposts in the area within the past year. The Taliban and al Qaeda quickly moved into the abandoned regions and established safe havens in the area, then proceeded to launch attacks on neighboring districts.
Background on recent attacks on US outposts in eastern Afghanistan
The Haqqani Network launched five massed assaults on US outposts between late August and September. Each of the attacks failed, and the Haqqani Network incurred heavy casualties. The bases are strung along the Haqqani Network’s rat lines into North Waziristan in Pakistan, where the terror group’s leadership is based.
On Aug. 28, Haqqani Network fighters launched coordinated attacks against Forward Operating Bases Salerno and Chapman in Khost province. US and Afghan troops routed the Haqqani Network fighters, killing more than 35, including a commander, during and after the attacks. Several of the fighters were wearing US Army uniforms, and 13 were armed with suicide vests. During raids in the aftermath of the attacks, US forces killed and captured several commanders and fighters.
On Sept. 2, the Haqqani Network attempted to storm Combat Outpost Margah in the Bermel district of Paktika province. US troops repelled the attack with mortar and small-arms fire, then called in helicopter gunships to finish off the attackers; 20 were reported killed.
On Sept. 21, US troops killed 27 Haqqani Network fighters as they mustered to assault Combat Outpost Spera.
And in the last attack, on Sept. 24, Haqqani Network suicide bombers attempted to breach the outer perimeter of Forward Operating Base Gardez in Paktia province. Five suicide bombers were killed by US forces.
The Taliban and the Haqqani Network have also launched attacks at several major installations across the country this year. In May, a small team attempted to breach security at Kandahar Airfield after launching a rocket attack on the base; another small team conducted a suicide assault at the main gate at Bagram Airbase in Parwan province. In June, the Taliban launched an assault against Jalalabad Airfield in Nangarhar province. The Taliban carried out a suicide assault against the Afghan National Civil Order Police headquarters in Kandahar City in July; three US soldiers were killed in the attack, which included a suicide car bomber and a follow-on assault team. And in early August, the Taliban again conducted a complex attack at Kandahar Airfield. All of the attacks were successfully repelled by Coalition and Afghan forces.
For more information on the Haqqani Network, its links to al Qaeda, and ISAF operations targeting its leadership, see LWJ report, US troops defeat Haqqani Network assault on base in Khost.
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