The Taliban claimed credit for a suicide attack outside of a US airbase in eastern Afghanistan that is used to launch drone attacks in Pakistan. Nine people were killed and several more were wounded in today’s suicide bombing.
The suicide bomber rammed his car packed with explosives into the main gate at Jalalabad Airfield in Nangarhar province, killing nine Afghans, “to include civilians, security guards and an ANA [Afghan National Army] soldier,” the International Security Assistance Force said in a statement condemning the attack. Six civilians, two security guards, and an Afghan soldier were among those killed, according to Pajwhok Afghan News.
The Taliban claimed the attack in a statement that was released on their website, Voice of Jihad.
“A martyr attacker of the Islamic Emirate this morning drove up to the gates of the airport at dawn and slammed his car into the facility as the invading forces were changing from night to morning guard duty, killing a dozen of the US-NATO troops besides blowing a tank with scores of US invaders on board to pieces,” the statement said. The Taliban identified the suicide bomber as Mujahid Ahmadullah, who was “resident of Nangarhar province.”
The Taliban wildly exaggerate the effects of their attacks and resultant Coalition and Afghan casualties. No US or NATO soldiers were killed in the attack. Four ISAF soldiers were reported to have been wounded in the blast.
Today’s attack takes place as Afghans continue to riot over the accidental burning of Korans at Bagram Air Base last week. Four US soldiers have been murdered by Afghan troops since last week; two were Army officers who were gunned down inside the Interior Ministry by an Afghan intelligence sergeant who had attended a madrassa in Pakistan. The other two soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier while protecting a base in Nangarhar province.
The Taliban have launched several attacks against Jalalabad Airfield in the past. The last major attack took place in November 2011, when a six-man suicide assault team was gunned down while attempting to storm the base. In June 2010, a suicide assault team attempted to penetrate security but was repelled during a firefight with US and Afghan security forces manning the perimeter.
The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan. In 2011, Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah, who in 2009 was placed on the United Nations Sanctions Committee’s list of “individuals and entities associated with al Qaeda,” was named to lead the Taliban’s Peshawar Regional Military Shura.
A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996. Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009. He has since been released and was spotted at the funeral of Awal Gul, who was detained by US forces in 2002 and died at Guantanamo Bay on Feb. 1. Gul was a Taliban commander in Nangarhar province who had allegedly been entrusted by Osama bin Laden with $100,000 to aid al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan in late 2001. [See LWJ report, Tora Bora Military Front commander speaks at funeral of former Gitmo detainee.]
Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber. Prior to Pakistan’s shutting down the supply route after a deadly clash with US forces last November that killed 24 Pakistani troops, the majority of NATO’s supplies passed through Khyber and Nangarhar before reaching Kabul and points beyond.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.