Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban inside Camp Bastion, the large military complex in Helmand province that was evacuated by US and British troops just one month ago, continues for the third day. Meanwhile, in the capital of Kabul, the jihadist group overran a guest house used by foreigners and may have taken hostages.
The Taliban initially launched their attack on Camp Bastion on Nov. 27, and Afghan officials quickly claimed the assault was defeated and the jihadists did not penetrate the perimeter of the base. But the attack continued as the Taliban attacked Camp Bastion from two sides, according to Pajhwok Afghan News.
An Afghan Army general who commands a regiment in Helmand said that heavily armed fighters with assault weapons and suicide vests are still fighting Afghan forces inside the base.
“Some managed to get inside, took position, and started the gunfight,” General Ayatullah Khan told Reuters.
The spokesman for the governor of Helmand province said that 27 Taliban fighters and five Afghan soldiers have been killed in the fighting so far. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi claimed that his fighters destroyed several aircraft and armored vehicles and killed a number of Afghan and foreign troops, Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
The Taliban launched two other offensives against Afghan forces in Helmand in the past two days. In the contested district of Sangin, 12 Taliban fighters and five Afghan troops were killed today in fighting at a base, TOLONews reported. And yesterday, four Afghan policemen were killed in a suicide attack in the Anzur Shali area of Helmand.
British and US forces handed over Camp Bastion, which served as the British headquarters in the country, to Afghan forces on Oct. 26. The base, along with neighboring Camp Leatherneck, which was the US Marine headquarters in the south, were the main hubs of counterinsurgency and air operations against the Taliban in Helmand, Nimroz, and Farah provinces. Leatherneck was also turned over to Afghan control on Oct. 26.
The Taliban have successfully breached security at Camp Bastion once in the past. On Sept. 14, 2012, a 15-man Taliban team penetrated the perimeter at the airbase, destroyed six USMC Harriers and damaged two more, and killed the US squadron commander and a sergeant. Fourteen of the 15 members of the assault team were killed, while the last was wounded and captured. Coalition forces captured one of the leaders of the operation days later, while the Taliban released a video that highlighted the attack.
Suicide assault in Kabul
Also today, Taliban fighters assaulted a “foreign guesthouse” just 200 meters from the Afghan parliament building in the capital, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. It is unclear which organization runs the guesthouse. The Taliban claimed it was run by “a Christian organization seeking to convert Muslims,” Reuters reported.
According to eyewitnesses, “three gunmen in military uniforms” opened fire on the guesthouse, while others stormed the compound and engaged security guards inside. Two fighters wearing suicide vests are said to have entered the compound. Afghan officials said there may be hostages.
Today’s attack in Kabul is the fourth major assault against Western targets in the capital this week. On Nov. 24, the Taliban killed two US soldiers in an IED attack that targeted a Western convoy in the city.
On Nov. 27, a suicide bomber killed five people, including a British national, in an attack on a British Embassy vehicle as it traveled in the capital. And on Nov. 28, two Taliban fighters were killed in a failed assault on the International Relief and Development compound in Kabul.
The recent attacks in the capital are likely executed by what the International Security Assistance Force and US military officials have previously called the Kabul Attack Network. This network is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and pools resources and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate as well. The network’s contacts extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Kunar, Ghazni, and Zabul.