Taliban suicide team attacks Afghan base in Helmand

A Taliban suicide assault team penetrated security at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province and battled Afghan forces for several hours today. While Afghan and Coalition officials both claim the assault was “repelled,” the Taliban clearly entered the base and inflicted casualties on Afghan forces.

The Taliban assault team attacked Camp Shorabak in the early morning hours, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense and the office for the governor of Helmand. An Afghan senator said that the Taliban used Afghan military “rangers, Humvees, uniforms and military equipment” to fool the soldiers guarding the base, TOLONews reported.

Afghan officials and the spokesman for Resolute Support claimed that the attack was “repelled,” however reporting indicates otherwise. Colonel David Butler, the spokesman for US Forces Afghanistan and Resolute Support, made the claim as he implored the Taliban to “get serious about peace.”

One of the suicide bombers detonated his explosives inside a dining facility, Pajhwok Afghan News noted. Officials said that 25 Afghan soldiers and nine Taliban fighters, including three suicide bombers, were killed during the fighting.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed that 70 US and 100 Afghan soldiers were killed during the assault, and also said it destroyed a large number of helicopters and armored personnel carries. The Taliban routinely inflates or flat out lies about the number of Coalition and Afghan troops killed during their operations. Butler categorically denied that any US soldiers were killed or wounded.

However, there may be some merit to the Taliban’s claim that it destroyed Afghan military hardware. In a similar assault in 2012 on Camp Bastion, a Coalition base in Helmand which is now known as Camp Shorabak, the Taliban destroyed six US Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers and heavily damaged two more, rendering the squadron combat ineffective.

The Taliban has proven to be adept at penetrating security at military bases and inflicting casualties on Afghan troops. A similar operation targeted an Afghan National Directorate of Security base in Wardak province last month, killing scores of NDS personnel. Last year was particularly hard on Afghan security forces, who are taking casualties at a very high rate. [See LWJ report, Taliban routs commando company in one of Afghanistan’s most secure rural districts.]

The Taliban trains members of the suicide assault teams used in attacks such as todays in a series of camps it claims are based in Afghanistan. The Taliban routinely touts these camps, which are used to train what it calls its “special forces” or “commando mujahidin.”

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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