ISAF, Afghan troops strike Haqqani Network ‘encampment’ in east

NATO and Afghan troops killed more than 50 Haqqani Network fighters during an attack on an “encampment” in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika.

The encampment was located in the Sar Rowzah District in Paktika province, a known haven for the Haqqani Network and allied groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda.

The “training camp” was used as “a staging area for Haqqani and foreign fighters,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. ISAF uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe members of al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. “These fighters were moved into the country by Haqqani insurgents who planned to use them for attacks throughout Afghanistan,” ISAF stated.

The combined ISAF and Afghan force attacked the camp last night after receiving reports of its location “from disenfranchised insurgents.” The ISAF and Afghan troops were attacked “from several locations, including cave sites and fortified bunkered fighting positions” by Haqqani fighters armed with “rocket propelled grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and AK-47 assault rifles.” The Afghan and ISAF force killed 30 Haqqani network fighters in the initial engagement, which lasted “throughout the night.”

Security forces killed “more than 20 additional insurgents” while continuing to clear the training camp and the surrounding area this morning and afternoon. After the engagement, security forces found “numerous stockpiles of weapons including mortars, RPGs with warheads, PK machine guns with multiple crates of ammunition, AK-47 rifles with magazines, grenades, chest racks and military gear.”

No ISAF or Afghan soldiers were killed during the engagement. ISAF said that no women or children were present at the site during the fighting.

The Haqqani Network is known to operate large training camps, “forts,” and bunkers throughout the Afghan east. In 2009, ISAF and Afghan forces conducted multiple large-scale assaults on Haqqani Network bases in Paktika, Paktia, and Khost provinces [see LWJ report, Afghan forces battle the Haqqani Network in Paktika]. But the Haqqani Network remains entrenched in the east due to its bases and support network across the border in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Kurram.

ISAF says it will step up operations against the Haqqani Network in the east. During the ‘surge’, ISAF focused its efforts on security for the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, leaving the east and north ripe for Taliban expansion. With the drawdown of US and NATO forces, ISAF will be hard pressed to surge additional forces to deal with the Haqqani Network, and will rely on Afghan forces to take the lead.

Paktika province is a known al Qaeda haven

Paktika province is run by Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who is the shadow governor. Mullah Sangeen is a senior lieutenant to Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the Haqqani Network. Siraj is also a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive leadership council, as well as a member of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, its top council, and the leader of the Miramshah Shura, one of the Taliban’s four major military commands in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda and allied groups maintain a presence in Paktika province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. US military press releases document the presence of al Qaeda and “foreign fighter” cells in the districts of Bermel, Sar Rowzah, Wor Mamay, Yahya Khel, Yosuf Khel, Zadran, and Ziruk; or seven of Paktika’s 18 districts.

The Taliban and the Haqqani Network have carried out three major assaults against US outposts in Bermel since 2008. In November 2008, US forces killed 16 enemy fighters as they assaulted Combat Outpost Margah.

In the fall of 2010, the Haqqani Network launched two major massed suicide assaults on COP Margah over the span of two months. On Sept. 2, US forces killed 20 Haqqani Network fighters. On Oct. 31, US forces killed 78 Haqqani Network and foreign fighters while repelling a massive attack. The Haqqani Network assault team was backed by fighters from al Qaeda as well as the Taliban.

Also, in June of this year, al Qaeda announced the death of Mahmoud Hamdan Nizal, a Jordanian who was known as Abu Dher al Urduni. Nizal was killed while attacking COP Margah, his martyrdom statement claimed.

Recent clashes with al Qaeda fighters in the east and raids against the terror group contradict claims that al Qaeda has only 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda leader and bin Laden associate captured in northern Afghanistan]. These claims have been made by top US intelligence and military leaders, including most recently by General David Petraeus, the former commander of ISAF.

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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18 Comments

  • gerald says:

    If the basic Afghan trooper can gain a sense of contempt for the Talibs as fighters then we have accomplished or mission there. Raids like these are a good step towards that goal.

  • Joe Blow says:

    You know what happened here right? ISAF went in and killed every able-bodied man in this camp. This is a nasty, dirty war. No quarter given.

  • Soccer says:

    The Taliban have denied that this happened, and said that the Americans “never advanced 10 metres inside the camp”, and claimed that over 70 US soldiers and more than 100 Afghan “puppets” were killed in this operation, and that they also torched dozens of convoys and trucks before stealing radar and intelligence equipment from the NATO forces.

  • Charles says:

    What I don’t understand is why this is not done more often.
    There can’t be a square inch of eastern Afghanistan that is not under continuous aerial and satellite surveillance. the main transportation hubs even the minor transportation hubs are already well known. Plus they capture enough guys in the interior of Afghanistan to get good confirming ground intelligence as to where the staging areas are.
    There’s just no way a training camp –on either side of the border– could escape notice.
    They don’t even need to send troops a lot of troops. They just bomb the camps with precision missles. At most they send in a couple spotters and maybe they take out squirters with snipers. But that’s it. No big troop commitment. Just good intelligence.
    This just does not seem like it would be so hard to do.

  • Charles says:

    really. there is good strategy here. If US signals intelligence is as good as AQ says it is –then the US should be able to effectively herd AQ & taliban into tight formations because they can’t trust their electronic communications anymore.
    Once in tight formations, AQ and Talban can be taken out.
    This is what whales do with bubbles.

  • David Verbryke says:

    Although it took 10 years too get bin Laden, I am proud to say that our intelligence community, I think particularly the CIA has reformed itself and as I have said before, the Republicans and Democrats under President Obama and President Bush should be congratulated on this point, as they let loose the Special Forces to do what they do best: eliminate America’s enemies, and they have done that so well and heroically quietly without fanfare. Keep up the good work. These are all fine man, including President Obama, who many right wing Republicans consider him the devil himself, but I think he means well for the country. He has done well with Pakistan and foreign policy. I think we need to remember the victims of Oslo today and also remember that this is why we need to take the fight to “them.” I am not trying to be cynical, but this is a reminder that we are facing a brutal, determined and intelligent foe. Every terrorist killed is a plus. That is a brutal and honest truth. I am a Democrat, but on this question, we can’t afford to be lax against the Haqqanis, the Taliban, or al-Qa’ida.

  • Soccer says:

    @David Verbyke
    Don’t fool yourself. Obama had to SLEEP on the decision to authorize the raid to kill Bin Laden.
    “These are all fine man, including President Obama, who many right wing Republicans consider him the devil himself, but I think he means well for the country.”
    Who ever said he was the devil? What a broad brush statement of blatant accusations. If we want to win this war, we’re going to have to put parties and ideologies aside and come together as one to defeat our enemies. Partisans like you make that awfully hard to do.
    As for Obama meaning well for the country, besides over stretching our military, and besides placing the troop withdrawals before the 2012 elections, Obama has done one thing that I find the most despicable: First, he raises the national defense spending to it’s highest ever; then, he plans on cutting defense spending to appease his liberal base just in time, for, you guessed it – the 2010 elections.
    //www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/18/liberals-see-opportunity-for-big-cuts-in-defense/
    Obama is not doing what is best for the country, he is doing what is best for his own interests, primarily to get elected into a second term.

  • C Wolf says:

    I disagree with Charles’ statement of “They don’t even need to send troops a lot of troops. They just bomb the camps with precision missiles.”. Didn’t Clinton authorized a hit of AQ and UBM with long-range Tomahawk after the first attack on the WTC? Instead the Tomahawk killed a number of GOATS, made UBM wary of using anything with a microchip and made him very difficult to locate until recently.
    Smart weapons isn’t the answer of it all.

  • Robbie says:

    These 50 men were there collecting fire wood and scrap metal. In addition, these men were merely firing their weapons to celebrate finding fire wood. Pawns and morons in AFPAK will likely be asking for an apology and questioning ISAF use of force and civilian casualties even though the fire fight and weapon caches show that this was a militia group who conducts military/terror operations.
    Good work ISAF Forces, keep up the pressure and thinning the herd.

  • Neo says:

    Joe Blow said:

  • Neo says:

    Can we leave the partisan bashing for some other website? There certainly isn

  • Charles says:

    Didn’t Clinton authorized a hit of AQ and UBM with long-range Tomahawk

    ………..

    Your idea of American technology is about 12 years out of date.

    In dog years, that’s a lot.

  • Abu Samuel says:

    Joe Blow – short of catching a jihadi by suprise in a raid you shouldn’t exapect a live capture. This looks like a serious battle for the training camp took place and given the fanatical nature of the enemy it isn’t suprising none were captured alive. For a modern parallel you might understand, think of the way Japaenese soldiers fought to the death in WW2 and how few of them were captured on the battlefield.
    While the capture of this camp, the presumed killing of its instructors and trainees, and the seizure of weapons and documents are all welcome; I think the fact that the Haqqani’s are willing to setup camps like this in eastern Afghanistan and not their more nominal safe haven in Pakistan quite little disturbing.
    Given the gradual drawdown of ISAF forces it will be interesting to see of the Afghan security forces are prepared to tackle an operation like this by themselves – as will eventually be necessary.

  • abrunsdon says:

    @ Charles-
    you would be surprised at how easily a training camp can go unnoticed, even with ISR saturation. Believe me, SIGINT can’t provide positive identification sufficient enough to just launch ordinance without boots on the ground. (Hell, half the time we don’t have positive identification until they start shooting at the “boots on the ground”. It’s a stickier problem than you would expect.

  • Villiger says:

    What? An ISAF direct attack on Pakistan’s Third Army?

  • Charles says:

    abrunsdon
    I wouldn’t think it proper to take one data set. Rather procedure would be to do confirming data sets including intel from guys they are more or less continuously collaring. It looks like that’s what happened in this case.

  • Joe Blow says:

    Neo said “Do you have a shred of evidence supporting this insinuation? The assertion that

  • Tommy Thomas Thompson says:

    Delta operator MSG Benjamin Stevenson was KIA in this operation.
    May he rest in peace.

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