The Taliban claimed credit for a suicide attack outside of a US base in eastern Afghanistan that is known to house CIA operatives who are hunting al Qaeda and other terrorist leaders across the border in Pakistan.
The Taliban suicide bomber detonated a van packed with explosives outside the main gate of Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province as Afghan workers were entering the base. Two Afghan civilians and an Afghan soldier were killed and several more were wounded in the blast, the provincial police chief told Pajhwok Afghan News. The slain Afghan policeman stopped the vehicle before it could enter the base, and then the suicide bomber detonated the explosives, TOLONews reported.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed that an attack took place outside of FOB Chapman, but did not indicate that any ISAF personnel were killed in the attack.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack in a statement released on their website, Voice of Jihad. In the statement, the Taliban claimed that the suicide bomber, who was identified as “Mujahid Omar,” killed “as many as 100 foreign invaders and local puppets of the occupation forces” in the attack. The Taliban routinely exaggerate the casualties caused by suicide and other attacks against ISAF and Afghan forces.
Forward Operating Base Chapman is located in the heart of Haqqani Network territory. The Haqqani Network is a Taliban subgroup that administers Khost, Paktia, and Paktika provinces, and is closely allied to al Qaeda. The Taliban routinely publish Haqqani network propaganda on Voice of Jihad.
The base hosts members of the Central Intelligence Agency who are hunting al Qaeda and other allied terror groups operating in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. The base is used to gather intelligence and direct drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and al Qaeda targeted the CIA at the base on Dec. 30, 2009, when Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, a longtime Internet jihadi whose real name is Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, detonated a suicide vest on the base. The blast killed seven CIA officials and contractors, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. Khurasani had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence to provide targeting information for the US’s covert air campaign against al Qaeda’s leaders and operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Khurasani enticed the CIA with promises of being able to produce Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command, and then detonated a suicide vest once he was granted access to the base.
Taliban continue to attack major Coalition bases
As the US prepares to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban have launched three major suicide assaults and several other smaller suicide attacks against large US bases in Afghanistan. On June 1, a Haqqani Network suicide team, which was backed by al Qaeda, attacked Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and penetrated security at the base. The attack on FOB Salerno resulted in the deaths of seven civilian contractors and one US soldier inside the base; scores more soldiers were said to have been wounded in the attack. The base PX and a dining facility were leveled in the attack. Salerno is one of the largest Coalition bases in the east, and is also used to launch US drone strikes in Pakistan.
The Taliban later released the Haqqani Network video of the planning and execution of the attack on FOB Salerno. Ayman bin Saeed, a jihadist from Oman who was also known as Abu Abdul Rahman al Oman, was seen in the video and was among those killed during the suicide assault.
The most successful attack against a major base took place on Sept. 14, when the Taliban launched a suicide assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand province. A 15-man Taliban team penetrated the perimeter at the airbase, destroyed six USMC Harriers and damaged two more, and killed the squadron commander and a sergeant. Fourteen of the 15 members of the assault team were killed, while the last was wounded and captured. Camp Bastion is a sprawling military base shared by US Marines and British troops that is located in the middle of the Dashti Margo desert in Helmand province.
The Taliban later released a video clip that showed their fighters preparing for the suicide assault on Camp Bastion. The video included footage of a planning session in front of a whiteboard that has a map of the base; the video also showed two of the fighters delivering their wills. The Mullah Dadullah Front, a Taliban subgroup that is closely tied to al Qaeda and led by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who serves as the Taliban’s military emir, is thought to have executed the attack.
And on Dec. 2, a suicide assault team attacked Forward Operating Base Fenty, a large airbase in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. Nine Taliban fighters, three Afghan security guards, and four civilians were killed in the attack.
Attacks on major Coalition facilities are expected to escalate as the US and its allies continue to draw down forces and hand over security to Afghan personnel by 2014. While no final decision has been made on the size of the remaining forces, the Obama administration is expected to approve a residual force estimated at around 10,000 troops. Such a small deployment would allow the US to operate only one or two smaller bases in Afghanistan; Bagram Airbase, Kandahar Airfield, and Camp Bastion, the three largest bases, currently each have tens of thousands of troops operating inside the wire.
The consolidation of troops into a few locations will allow the Taliban to focus their efforts on the small number of bases and increase the frequency of their attacks. This will occur as the US has reduced its combat power and its intelligence-gathering capabilities. US forces will also be required to depend more on Afghan forces for their security, even as attacks on Coalition forces by their Afghan allies have spiked.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.