Taliban mount huge attack on heavily fortified U.S. base, destroy jets, cause $200 million in damages

I have been saying since 2003 that the U.S., except for short invasions or attacks needed to destroy those who threaten us, should have zero involvement in Muslim societies. A primary reason for my position is that once we plant our forces more or less permanently in their societies, as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, our forces become our enemies’ targets, rather than our enemies being our targets.

Today’s New York Times reports the most recent consequence of parking our men and materiel in a Muslim country:

Audacious Raid on NATO Base Shows Taliban’s Reach

KABUL, Afghanistan—An audacious Taliban attack on a heavily fortified base in southern Afghanistan did far more damage than initially reported, destroying or severely damaging eight attack jets in the most destructive single strike on Western matériel in the 11-year war, military officials said Sunday.

While other attacks have caused greater loss of life, the assault late Friday at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, one of the largest and best-defended posts in Afghanistan, was troubling to NATO because the attackers were able to penetrate the base, killing two Marines and causing more than $200 million in damage. “We’re saying it’s a very sophisticated attack,” said a military official here. “We’ve lost aircraft in battle, but nothing like this.”

The complex attack, which NATO officials said was conducted by three tightly choreographed teams of militants wearing American Army uniforms, was a reminder that the Taliban remain capable of serious assaults despite the “surge” offensive against them. Now the offensive is over, and nearly 10,000 American Marines have left Helmand Province, a critical stronghold for the Taliban, over the past several months.

Together with a rash of attacks by Afghan security forces against NATO troops—including two over the weekend that left at least six coalition service members dead—the Taliban have put new pressure on the American withdrawal plan, which calls for accelerated troop pullouts through 2014 while training Afghan forces to take over….

The military investigation into the attack at Bastion is now trying to uncover whether the insurgents had help from inside the camp and whether they were trained or aided by neighboring countries, such as Pakistan or Iran, which have allowed the Taliban to take refuge on their territory. But military officials and Afghan analysts said that the insurgents may well have prepared for their mission in significant measure by studying easily available satellite images on the Internet. “We don’t underestimate the enemy,” the military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation. “We know the enemy has limited capability to do these, but they are not a whole bunch of yokels running around the country.”

The 15 insurgents conducting the attack lost no time from the moment they blew a hole in the perimeter at one of the closest points to the airfield, military officials said. They then raced toward their targets, shooting and setting fire to parked Marine AV-8B Harrier jets and destroying three refueling stations, even as a quick reaction force was mustering to fight them off, a military official said. “It was a running gun battle for a while, two and a half hours, nonetheless they were able to get to the aircraft before we could intercept them,” a military official said, noting that because it happened at night it was difficult until daylight to be sure that all the insurgents had been killed or captured. All but one was killed; the remaining insurgent is in custody, the military said.

Two American Marines were killed in the attack, and nine coalition personnel, including a civilian contractor, were wounded, the military said in a statement. Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, is doing a tour of duty as a helicopter pilot and was stationed at Camp Bastion at the time of the attack, but was not hurt. Camp Bastion is home mostly to British soldiers, while the neighboring camp, known as Leatherneck, has American Marines and other service members.

Six of the jets, which each cost between $23 million and $30 million when they were first acquired by the United States Navy, according to a General Accounting Office report, were completely destroyed and two more were so severely damaged it was unlikely they could be repaired. Also badly damaged were three refueling stations and three soft-skinned aircraft hangars, the military said in a news release.

Determining how it was possible for the insurgents to penetrate and severely damage such a well-defended base, particularly one with clear lines of sight across miles of mostly flat plain, will be important in determining whether this was a unique attack or one that could be replicated either in targeting Western bases or Afghan ones, military experts said. [cont.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 17, 2012 01:16 PM | Send

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