July 14, 2008 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Joint Al Qaeda and Taliban force behind Kunar base attack

Yesterday's deadly complex attack on a joint US and Afghan outpost in Kunar province was carried out by a large, mixed force of Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied extremist groups operating eastern Afghanistan. Sunday's assault occurred just three days after 45 US soldiers, likely from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and 25 Afghan troops established a new combat outpost in the town of Wanat. The troops had little time to learn the lay of the land, establish local contacts, and build an intelligence network. A complex attack The assault was carried out in the early morning of July 13 after the extremist forces, numbering between 200 and 500 fighters, took over a neighboring village. “What they [the Taliban] did was they moved into an adjacent village – which was close to the combat outpost – they basically expelled the villagers and used their houses to attack us,” an anonymous senior Afghan defense ministry official told Al Jazeera. Tribesmen in the town stayed behind “and helped the insurgents during the fight,” General Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh, the provincial police chief, told AP. The Taliban force then conducted a complex attack, coordinating a ground assault with supporting fires. Approximately 100 enemy fighters were reported to have moved close to the base while a heavy barrage of machinegun fire, rocket propelled grenades, and mortars. The fighters advanced on the outpost from three sides. Taliban fighters breached the perimeter of the outpost but were repelled. US troops called in artillery, helicopter, and air support to help beat back the attacking force. Casualties were heavy on both sides, with nine US soldiers and 40 Taliban fighters killed during the assault. Fifteen US and four Afghan soldiers were also wounded in the attack. An extremist alliance The assault on the Wanat outpost was conducted by an alliance of extremist groups operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to reports. A senior Afghan defense official told Al Jazeera that “various anti-government factions including Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Hezb-i-Islami faction were involved” in the strike. Tamim Nuristani, who served as governor of Kunar before President Hamid Karzai relieve him of his post for criticizing a US airstrike that is thought to have killed Afghan civilians, said Taliban and Pakistani groups banded together for the attack. “The (attackers) were not only from Nuristan but from other districts,” Nuristani said. “They are not only Taliban. They were (Pak