The Taliban launched a coordinated suicide assault on a base in eastern Afghanistan and breached the outer perimeter before being beaten back by US and Afghan forces.
Fourteen Taliban fighters from the assault team were killed while attacking Forward Operating Base Salerno earlier today, Major Efrem Gibson, the Deputy Public Affairs Officer for Regional Command – East and Combined Joint Task Force 1 told The Long War Journal. FOB Salerno is the largest Coalition base in southeastern Afghanistan, and is highly fortified and possesses extensive air and surveillance assets.
“There was a failed insurgent attack against a Coalition base in eastern Afghanistan today,” Gibson said, confirming that FOB Salerno came under attack. “100 percent of all ISAF forces have been accounted for, and there were no ISAF members killed.” Several soldiers “suffered minor wounds from the attack.”
Gibson said that “14 insurgents were killed” and “some insurgents were able to get inside the perimeter, but they were neutralized.” Several were wearing suicide vests, according to an RC-East press release.
According to Pajhwok Afghan News, the attack began as a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into the base’s outer wall at 1 p.m. local time. Taliban fighters then entered the perimeter and fought with US and Afghan forces for one hour before they were defeated.
The Taliban claimed credit for today’s attack on FOB Salerno, in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the group’s propaganda website. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the forces attacked the airbase from three sides and killed “scores of US invaders” and “shot down two of the enemy’s helicopters.”
The attack was likely carried out by the Haqqani Network, the Taliban subgroup that operates in Khost as well as in neighboring Paktia and Paktika provinces. The Haqqani Network has launched two other major attacks against Salerno and numerous assaults on other bases in the region since 2008.
On Aug. 28, 2010, Haqqani Network fighters launched coordinated attacks against FOB Salerno and FOB Chapman, which is also 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.
In August 2008, the Haqqani Network launched suicide assaults against FOB Salerno over the course of two days. The Haqqani Network attempted to breach the perimeter and overrun the airstrip in one of the attacks, but failed.
The Haqqani Network operates primarily in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika, but also has an extensive presence in Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Ghazni, Zabul, Kandahar, and Kunduz. In addition, the network has expanded its operations into the distant Afghan provinces of Badakhshan and Faryab.
The terror group has close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and its relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has allowed the network to survive and thrive in its fortress stronghold of North Waziristan, a tribal agency in Pakistan. The Haqqani Network has also extended its presence into the Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram. The Haqqani Network uses its bases in Pakistan to launch attacks in eastern and central Afghanistan.
For more information on the Haqqani Network, its links to al Qaeda, and ISAF operations targeting its leadership, see LWJ report, US adds Taliban financier, Haqqani Network operative to terror list.
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