As the U.S. attempts to transition Afghanistan security over to the Afghans, a coordinated suicide bomb attack on the base in Jalalabad that resulted in the death of at least five Afghan soldiers earlier today demonstrated just how treacherous Afghanistan continues to be.
The attackers never managed to get inside the base, but the series of car bombs they detonated on the perimeter of the well-protected base showed how willing the Taliban is to cause death and destruction at all costs.
Shortly after 6am local time, three car bombs went off outside Forward Operating Base Fenty, a facility adjacent to the Jalalabad airfield, according to a coalition news release. Following the bombs, the attackers tried to penetrate the base, but were repelled by Afghan and coalition troops.
“They didn’t get inside,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a spokesman for the coalition’s Regional Command-East. “It was more shock and awe than anything successful.”
German Army Lt. Col. Hagen Messer, another coalition spokesman, said the assault was successfully deflected by helicopters and ground troops. While there were no U.S. fatalities, he said that coalition service members were wounded in the attack. He declined to discuss numbers as a matter of policy.
Abdul Jalil Shamaal, a top provincial police commander in Jalalabad, said a total of nine attackers, including the suicide bombers, were killed in the incident. Two civilians and three contract security guards at the airfield gate were killed and another civilian was injured, he added. The Afghan Interior Ministry didn’t immediately provide full confirmation of casualties.
According to a Nato spokesman, the assault appears to have been clearly planned for some time, but both Nato and Afghan officials considered it a failure because the militants did not penetrate the base.
But the fact that the Taliban managed to get as far as the perimeter will raise questions, as there are checkpoints on the approach routes.
The attack has demonstrated, once again, that the militants retain the capacity to strike, in spite of regular claims from Afghan and Nato officials that they have been weakened.
In February Taliban killed nine people in a similar attack.
Nato is gradually handing security over to Afghan forces ahead of the departure of most combat troops in 2014.