Taliban attack biggest NATO base in Afghanistan

See also: Taliban get £1,600 bounty for each Nato soldier killed (Times)


Taliban fighters launched an audacious assault on the biggest Nato base in Afghanistan in the third attack on coalition forces in under a week.

The frontal attack on Kandahar airfield forced William Hague, the new Foreign Secretary, and Liam Fox, the new Defence Secretary to cancel a scheduled trip to meet British troops on the base during their first tour of Afghanistan since taking office.

Rebels rained rockets onto the airfield and then attempted to storm the perimeter fences before being forced back by fire from watchtowers.

Fighting in southern Afghanistan is again expected to escalate this summer as American troops continue to pour into the country for Barack Obama’s surge strategy.

The Taliban movement earlier this month launched its own Al-Faath, or victory, spring offensive aimed at Nato-led forces, the Afghan government and their allies.

The Kandahar attack followed a similar attempt to storm Bagram air base north of Kabul and a deadly suicide car bombing in the capital.

Five rockets hit the sprawling base 300 miles southwest of the capital at around 8pm (4.30pm BST) on Saturday evening.

Several members of the Nato-led force and civilian contractors were wounded, but none killed. A spokesman would not say how many insurgents took part or how many died. Soldiers on the base were kept in bunkers for several hours following the attack.

“No insurgents have penetrated the base perimeter,” he said.

The airfield has become the main launch pad for General Stanley McChrystal’s push into Taliban stronghold’s in southern Afghanistan and now houses more than 20,000 personnel.

A Taliban spokesman, who gave his name as Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said fighters had attacked from two sides and fired 15 rockets.

Rebels regularly rocket the airfield, but the battle was the first frontal attack in recent years.

Mr Hague and Dr Fox had been due to visit Kandahar after a day of talks with political and military leaders in Kabul, but were forced to avoid the area.

Mr Fox told British troops in Helmand the government would ensure they had everything needed to do the job and would honour an election pledge to double the frontline operational allowance.

By Ben Farmer in Gereshk
Published: 7:50PM BST 23 May 2010

Source: The Telegraph

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