US troops repel Haqqani Network assault on eastern Afghan base


Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

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.

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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  • ed says:

    On TV this morning CBS reported the raid. They noted the five wounded soldiers. They neglected to mention the Taliban dead.

  • Dan A says:

    I feel like the assaults on Wanat and Kamdesh may have been a blessing in disguise (with all due respect for the soldiers who died there). Now the Taliban/Haqqani’s see the chance of a propaganda victory from overrunning a base so important that they’re willing to take mass casualties in fruitless attempts to assault heavily fortified positions.

  • Shahid says:

    i think NATO forces should once and for all prepare themselves with a good operational plan and attack the haqqani bases in Pakistan North Waziristan. It should be a delta force type operation and rootout the haqqani network.
    with successful assault NATO can overcome the anger of Pakistani authorities, in case Pakistani politicians react over their so called sovereignty.

  • Durendal says:

    Having the enemy sustain heavy casualties is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the emphasis to win the war (like it was in Vietnam). They’ll always have a stable of recruits ready to take their place.
    We need to break the enemy’s will to fight, and part of that is incurred by inflicting substantial casualties, but it’s like the drone program eliminating their leadership. It should supplement COIN operations inside Afghanistan, that’s the only way to win the war.

  • Charu says:

    Yes, eliminate or inflict pain on the Taliban leadership living in Pakistan, AND on the Pakistani ISI/military central hive that controls them. Instead of us shaking hands with Kayani, the former head of the ISI, he should be shown pictures of the execution of Tojo, Keitel, and Saddam as a reminder of what is in stow for him.

  • Villiger says:

    Charu, store?
    Or maybe one day he will arrive as a stowaway in London where his former boss is stowed away. A gentlemanly welcome provided by the British Govt to their former ‘ally’.
    But then, he may prefer to go to Dubai or Saudi Arabia (other wonderfully chosen allies) where he will live better, like a prince, with all that the US Govt and by default US tax-payers, have helped him stash away. Its not just his palms that have been greased. He’s been greased from head-to-toe, leaving him as slimy as an eel. That he is now. And should be dealt with as one, now. Not at some point in the future, after being allowed to slip away and then chased wasting millions more of US tax-payer money.
    A leopard doesn’t change its stripes, nor an eel its slime.

  • Mr Wolf says:

    It’s time to set the dogs of war in motion. If a base is attacked, send the canines out to find them (while fighting back of course), with radio collars to follow and lead to a cache of weapons or safe-house. PS. Dogs would not be a NATO intrusion on Pak soil either.


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