ISAF captures Taliban leader involved in Camp Bastion attack

Today the International Security Assistance Force reported that it captured a Taliban leader involved in the Sept. 14 suicide assault on Camp Bastion. The assault killed two US Marines, including a commander of a Harrier squadron [more below], and resulted in the destruction of six US Marine Corps Harrier strike aircraft and three refueling stations, as well as two seriously damaged aircraft.

According to ISAF, the Taliban commander “is suspected to have provided support to the insurgents,” and two other “insurgents” were also detained during the operation:

In Nad ‘Ali district, Helmand province, today, an Afghan and coalition security force arrested one of the Taliban leaders behind Friday’s Camp Bastion attack.

The Taliban leader was successfully taken into custody by the security force following joint efforts by Afghan and coalition forces to track down the Taliban insurgents responsible for the Camp Bastion attack. No civilians were harmed during the operation.

The Taliban leader is suspected to have provided support to the insurgents whose attack killed two ISAF service members and caused damage to multiple aircraft. ISAF forces killed all but one of the attacking insurgents, who was wounded and currently in ISAF custody.

The security force also detained two suspected insurgents as a result of this operation.

As I mentioned the other day, given the sophistication of this operation, I suspect that it was carried out by the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s military arm that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is composed of both foreign and local fighters. The assault team would need local support to stage and execute the attack (and might even include several local fighters familiar with the terrain).

Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced the identity of the two US Marines killed during the assault. Among them was Lieutenant Colonel Christopher K. Raible, who was the commander of Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

It is difficult to argue that this was not one of the jihadists’ most effective assaults on a major Coalition base since the war began. Beyond penetrating one of the most secure installations in Afghanistan, the attackers made it to the airfield, took a Marine Attack Squadron offline by destroying six Harriers and badly damaging two more, and killed the squadron commander.

Estimations of the monetary losses incurred in the attack are unclear, but you can get a ballpark figure. The Harriers are estimated to cost between $20 million to $30 million each. Even if the value has depreciated over the years, there have been investments in upgrades, and the aircraft will need to be replaced. Add in the destruction of the three refueling stations and the hangars, and the cost is significant.

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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  • Alex says:

    Well that was fast. I wonder how we got the intel?

  • James says:

    Bill, notice that there were 20 assailants involved in the attack, the same number as was originally set in the 9/11 attacks.
    I’m almost willing to bet that this attack was originally designed to be executed on the 9/11 anniversary.
    Obviously, there must have been a snafu somewhere along the line. What might it have been?
    There are also eerie similarities in this attack and the Mumbai attacks. (Note the use of Google maps etc. in the prepping phase).
    This proves again as I have emphasized many times before that we have got to get together with India on this.
    Our intelligence people need to work with India’s intelligence services (hopefully in unison and equanimity).
    I also have a hunch that they may have infiltrated a coalition partner in order to carry this out.

  • gabriel says:


  • Rosario says:

    This may sound harsh but I think some high level officers need to be relived of command and face at minimum a boards of inquiry. In light of the pattern attacks with varying degrees of success at Salerno and now Bastion these sappers should have been engaged before they approached those bases. The Salerno attack was in broad daylight. Someone keeps making poor regarding force protection resources, and now it affects the security of units operating outside the wire. Where were the ANA units in all of this? We are not hearing of any Afghan casualties at Bastion…

  • Charu says:

    At least one columnist thinks that the Pakistani military was behind the Camp Bastion operation.

  • irebukeu says:

    Why no afghan losses in the raid? Well the British section of the base ( does it have the same name?) has none other than prince “dirty harry” and the Taliban have promised to get him at any cost. It is interesting that one section went towards the helicopter and air park. As to why no afghan losses. I would strongly doubt that any afghan is allowed anywhere near dirty harry. There’s no telling who might be looking to settle some old score from 1879 or 1919. MY guess was that there were no Afghans around to get killed inside the base. and as to the outer security not engaging these teams…… That is a great question and might indicate a afghan security force, you know, the kind of afghan security that always goes on break right before a Taliban/ HIG attack .

  • James says:

    This situation kind of stupefies me.
    Here, we have an enemy using Battle of the Bulge tactics but as a chosen (instead of a last) resort.
    For the Germans it was a real “Hail Mary” play.
    Don’t such tactics constitute war crimes and are forbidden by the Geneva Convention?
    I believe in the aftermath of Battle of the Bulge, our guys were allowed to shoot the infiltrators (after a short military hearing).
    Now, here’s a ‘Hail Mary’ play for US:
    1. Lure ol’ one-eyed cyclops (mullah omar) back into Afghanistan.
    2. Surround him and then use him as bait to eliminate as many of his followers as possible.
    3. Finally eliminate (or to put it rather nicely, ‘capture’) him.
    I’m sure ol’ kabul king karzai would bend over backwards to entreat this guy.
    Let Karzai visit him (or entreat him) all he wants.
    Done deal ! Both Karzai and Omar are no more ! ! !
    Seriously, I’ve studied at least some of this Omar’s writings. I believe he holds nothing but seething contempt for karzai

  • mike merlo says:

    How long before TLWJ or a poster of consequence is able to provide at or near detailed info of the ‘inside’ assistance afforded to the assailants. The taking into custody of an alleged ring leader should help expose the insider help if it already hasn’t.

  • Dwysong says:

    I have a hunch they breached the back side of the airbase. Having been there it would make sense. The real problem is the weaponst on base are kept condition 4. It sketched me out when I visited. Most people probably don’t keep the 30 rounds required on them. Someone needs to be relieved for the lack of force protection on that base’s outer wire. You get checked more carefully going into the chow hall.

  • Shawn says:

    I have to agree with Dwysong. Force Protection Measures on large Coalition Installations, appear to be more concerned on enforcement of DFAC Policies and Reflective Belts, then proper vetting of Local Nationals and Third Country Nationals on base and intelligence sharing of information between all relative entities on Post. The Intel reporting probably indicated an attack ahead of the actual attack, but theres little that can be done with vague information, other then eliminating Soldier Complacency and the following of set SOPs. The effectiveness of this attack demonstrates a failure not only at the command level, but from the NCO Team Leader and up, on that installation for failing to enforce policies and standards. This attack just proves that no one in Afghanistan at this time should be below Weapon Status Amber.

  • Ben says:

    It was reported RPG’s were present in the immediate vicinity of camp Bastion and that RPG’s were being transported and distributed around Camp Bastion. If the military failed to Act or investigate thoroughly and personnel were killed there should be an investigation but investigators should be looking at why reports on
    RPG’s were not actioned or investigated prior to the attack!


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