Afghan and Coalition forces beat back a massed assault of more than 300 Haqqani Network fighters in the eastern province of Paktika. The Haqqani Network fighters attacked an Afghan base in Paktika’s Zirkuk district, according to the BBC:
The Nato-led force has not commented on the clashes, although local people told the BBC that its aircraft took part.
Scores of militants from the Haqqani network were killed, officials say.
Officials said as many as 60 militants from the Taliban-linked network were killed, but there is no independent confirmation of this.
Five Afghan National Army soldiers were also killed, six wounded and one taken prisoner, they added.
Paktika province borders Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. The Haqqani Network is headquartered in North Waziristan.
In prior years, the Haqqani Network, which is closely allied with al Qaeda and is a powerful Taliban subgroup that is active in eastern, central, and northern Afghanistan, frequently launched massed assaults on US bases. Al Qaeda fighters often participated in these raids. [See LWJ report, Omani jihadist participated in Haqqani Network raid on FOB Salerno.]
It is unclear how crucial the US air support was in repelling today’s assault in Zirkuk. But if the past is any indication, it could have been the decisive factor in preventing the base from being overrun.
The US government plans to reduce the number of forces to below 10,000 and possibly under 5,000 after the end of this year. With such a small force in country, the US would be severely limited in providing close air support for Afghan forces under siege. A force of 5,000 to 10,000 troops would primarily be focused on its own security at one or two bases in more secured areas of the country.
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