June 24, 2008 | FDD’s Long War Journal

US, Afghan forces kill 16 Taliban in eastern Afghanistan

Afghan police backed by US air support held off a Taliban attempt to overrun a district center in eastern Afghanistan. At least 16 Taliban were reported killed after US air support was called in.

A large Taliban force made up of Afghan, Arab, and Chechen fighters attacked the Sayad Karam District Center in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning. Afghan police assigned to protect the outpost held off the initial Taliban assault, and called for US assistance for US reinforcements.

US troops arrived and immediately called in air support. “Approximately a dozen extremists” were killed, said Combined Joint Task Force – 101. Afghan defense officials put the number at 16 Taliban killed.

Paktia province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Kurram, where the Lashkar-e-Jhangavi, a Deobandi group funded by Saudi Wahabis, preys upon Shia living in the region. Lashkar-e-Jhangavi has merged with al Qaeda and serves as the group's muscle in Pakistan.

Paktia also borders Khost province to the west. Khost borders Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Haqqani family, which is allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda, run the tribal agency and conduct operations in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani, the son of Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, has close ties to Osama bin Laden and is one of the most wanted terrorists in Afghanistan.

Today's attack in Paktia is the second large-scale, coordinated ground attack by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan in four days. On June 20, US and Afghan forces killed 55 Taliban and wounded another 25 during a massed attack on a patrol in neighboring Paktika province. On June 21, six rockets and mortars were fired from North Waziristan into Paktika province, killing one Afghan woman and three children. The attacks in Paktika occurred along a known Taliban infiltration route from North Waziristan.

Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up by 40 percent this year when compared to 2007, said Major General Jeffrey Schloesser during a briefing at the Pentagon. Yesterday, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said three additional combat brigades are needed to fight the Taliban and train Afghanistan forces.