A Taliban suicide assault team attacked Forward Operating Base Fenty, a large airbase in Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, early this morning.
The heavily armed Taliban assault team of an estimated 10 fighters attacked the main entrance at FOB Fenty in the Behsud district just before 6:00 a.m. local time. The attack began as three suicide bombers detonated their cars packed with explosives near the entrance of the base in an effort to breach the perimeter, according to The New York Times.
A suicide assault team wearing US military uniforms and armed with mortars, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and assault rifles then attempted to storm the base but was beaten back by Afghan and Coalition forces backed by attack helicopters.
The fighting at the main gate lasted for nearly two hours before the Taliban were finally defeated. Nine Taliban fighters, three Afghan security guards, and four civilians were killed in the attack, according to The New York Times. TOLONews reported that “three Afghan special forces soldiers” were killed in the attack.
The International Security Assistance Force told The Long War Journal that there were “no ISAF fatalities as a result of the attack,” but would not comment on the number of Coalition forces wounded.
The Taliban claimed credit for today’s attack and said that “tens of American soldiers and agents,” or Afghans, were killed, according to a statement that was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The Taliban routinely exaggerate the number of Coalition and Afghan soldiers killed in their attacks.
The Taliban also claimed that “there were also massive damages to the enemy hideouts inside the airport,” and said that two aircraft were “targeted” and “destroyed,” while another five-man mortar team fired at the base and then safely withdrew.
The Taliban identified a suicide bomber who rammed the gate as “Sadiqullah.” Other Taliban fighters killed were “Muhammad Omar from Nangarhar province, Sarfaraz from Qarabagh district of Ghazni, Oues Khan from Muhammad Agha district of Logar, Jalal from the city of Gardez, the capital of Paktika, and Sadiqullah and Jamsheed from the residents of Nangarhar province.”
The Taliban have attacked Coalition bases in Nangarhar in the past. Most recently, in April, a car bomb was detonated outside of the main gate, but there were no casualties. At the same time, a four-man suicide assault team launched an attack on neighboring FOB Finley-Shields.
In February, a suicide bomber attacked the main gate at Jalalabad Airfield, killing nine people. The base is used by the US to launch drone strikes against al Qaeda, Taliban, and allied targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Taliban continue to attack major Coalition bases
Today’s suicide assault at FOB Fenty is the third such attack against a major Coalition base since the beginning of June. 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 Fenty. 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 closely tied to al Qaeda and is led by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who serves as the Taliban’s military emir, is thought to have executed 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.