Taliban suicide assault team kills ISAF soldier in eastern Afghanistan

A Taliban suicide assault team killed a Coalition soldier in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar today before being gunned down by Afghan troops.

A heavily armed suicide assault team consisting of seven fighters attacked the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan military base in the Ghani Khel district at approximately 7:30 a.m. local time, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. The Taliban assault team detonated a suicide car bomb and then attempted to storm the base, but the remaining fighters were gunned down by security forces.

ISAF confirmed that one of its soldiers was killed “following a suicide attack by enemy forces in eastern Afghanistan Jan. 4.” The number of ISAF and Afghan forces wounded during the attack has not been disclosed.

The Taliban, in a statement released on their official website, Voice of Jihad, took credit for the attack, and claimed “25 foreign terrorist troops” were killed in the “latest in the series of martyrdom operations.” The Taliban routinely exaggerate the number of Coalition and Afghan forces killed during their operations.

The Taliban identified the members of the assault team as “Maulvi Abdul Aziz residence of Kabul province, Abdul Aziz coming from Paktia, Naseer from Kunar, Qari Waseem, Maulwi Basheer and Bilal Ahmad from Nangarhar and Doctor Khalil from Laghman provinces.”

Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber, and hosts the main supply route from Pakistan.

The Taliban have launched several suicide attacks against Coalition and Afghan bases in Nangarhar. Many of the attacks targeted the main ISAF airbase in Jalalabad.

The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using multiple suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic used by al Qaeda and its allies, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan, including in Nangarhar province. In 2011, the Taliban appointed Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah to lead its Peshawar Regional Military Shura; he had been added to the United Nations Sanctions Committee’s list of “individuals and entities associated with al Qaeda” in 2009.

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, 2011. 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.]

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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  • Scott J says:

    In a way, news like this gives me hope for the future of Afghanistan rather than the opposite. That providing that a SOFA can be worked out, and the Afghans receive the support they need in the future.
    But think about how pathetic this attack was. This is an enemy that has to rely on IEDs and suicide attacks carried out by small squads of men.
    7 men …
    I realize there are a lot more throughout Afghanistan and waiting in Pakistan, but this is hardly the showing of a force that could really threaten the Afghan army – again, provided the ANA receives support. But the taliban, with their suicide bombers and IEDs seem to be more of a nuisance – a deadly nuisance, but a nuisance all the same – than a credible force that could ever topple the government.

  • Habib Malgeri says:

    The attack occurred at an ANA (Afghan National Army) base in the Ghani Khel area of Shinwar District, several kilometers south of the main Jalalabad—Torkham Highway and on the main road to Naziyan District, which coordinates all ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and IMF (International Military Forces) activity in Shinwar, Naziyan, and Achin districts of Shinwary tribes in the southeast of Nangarhar province. The base was formerly occupied by ANA, however some IMF personnel have remained on site following last year’s transition to ANA control and were present at today’s attack (with at least one IMF soldier killed). This base has been targeted by AOG (Armed Opposition Group) suicide assets on at least two other occasions; an SVBIED (Self and Vehicle Burning Improvise Explosive Devise) detonated in the vicinity of the base as an IMF convoy was passing by on 4 March 2007, killing 15 civilians and wounding another 26, while on 17 January 2012, an SVBIED detonated at the base’s main gate, wounding only three ANA soldiers.
    This is the third AOG attack to feature suicide assets in eastern Nangarhar Province in the past three weeks, following two incidents at IMF/ANSF facilities near the Torkham border; a lone BBIED (Body Burning Improvise Explosive Devise) strike on the NDS (National Department of Security) office on 15 December, and a complex attack on an ANCOP (Afghan National Civil Order Police) check post and other nearby ANSF/IMF positions on 18 December. All three attacks are notable for their targeting profiles, as the Ghani Khel base and Torkham border facilities are major ANSF/IMF staging areas situated along one of Afghanistan’s primary supply routes and several key AOG infiltration routes. This concentration of three significant AOG strikes in three weeks, with the use of suicide assets likely planned and coordinated at a high-level, also comes at a time when the frequency of AOG attacks remained intensive in Nangarhar despite the onset of colder weather.
    The spate of these three significant attacks within three weeks may be notable, however the frequency of AOG suicide attacks (including complex attacks featuring suicide assets) has not seen much variance from year to year despite the gradual intensification of AOG activity in Nangarhar between 2009-2012 and the significant deterioration of the province’s security environment in 2013. Indeed, the number of AOG attacks featuring suicide assets hovered between six to ten from 2008 through 2013. In fact, 2013 actually witnessed a decrease in such attacks with eight (down from ten in 2012), though this slight decline represented stand-along BBIED or SVBIED strikes as the number of complex attacks remained unchanged with three in both years.
    While the geographic concentration of these three recent suicide/complex attacks is unique, three such attacks in three weeks is not unusual; a brief look at AOG activity in Nangarhar since 2008 reveals that attacks featuring suicide assets have often followed a pattern of increased frequency in short time windows. Suicide and complex attacks have occurred in similar spikes on at least three other occasions: Summer 2010 saw four such attacks within four weeks, Spring 2011 saw six such attacks within nine weeks, and Spring 2012 experienced four such attacks within six weeks.

  • Matt says:

    IED casualties go down via three things increased detection, technology, surveillance, small unit kill teams, increased force protection vehicles, thirdly get the indigenous security forces in the field and taking the lead. Then watch the number of IED’s go down as soon as the foreign troops are not in the lead. They are not going to plant IED’s where they have to go, foreign troops sure, themselves of course not. al-Qaida in the Iraq military, al-Sadr supports and others that don’t like you, in Afghanistan you have the Taliban in the ANSF. That is one factor why they can maintain security once they take the lead not because the foreign forces are so go at suppression, because they stop doing it as the foreign forces pull back. Less IED’s, less ambushes. You just have to cop it until you can build the indigenous force structure to take over. It is green on blue and it was far worse in Iraq than Afghanistan. You don’t have to be Sherlock Homes to work out who is kill your forces.


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