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Taliban attacks on US bases in Afghanistan: enabled by Pakistani forces?

The volume of explosives used in attacks on US military bases in Afghanistan in recent days fuels concern that Pakistani security services are taking a stronger hand in backing insurgent groups.


Afghans offer prayers over the covered coffins of Wednesday's suicide attack victims during their burial ceremony in Khost, Afghanistan, on June 21. A suicide bomber killed nearly two dozen people, including three US soldiers, at a checkpoint in a packed market in eastern Afghanistan on June 20 – the third assault targeting Americans in as many days.

Nishanuddin Khan/AP

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A recent spate of attacks on US military bases in Afghanistan points to a resilient Taliban with a steady supply of arms. It is a supply stream flowing from Pakistan – one that US troops, try as they might, are proving unable to interrupt.

Equally troubling for the Pentagon, analysts warn that these attacks serve as growing evidence that Pakistani security services (ISI) is stepping up its support of insurgent groups to jockey for position ahead of the scheduled 2014 departure of US combat troops from the country.

On Wednesday, two attacks in eastern Afghanistan killed three US troops and at least 25 Afghans, prompting the US Embassy to condemn the Taliban’s “murderous campaign.”

These attacks come on the heels of one of the most troubling insurgent offensives in some time, according to analysts. It occurred earlier this month, when a suicide-bomber in a car filled with explosives was able to breach perimeter security at a large US base near the eastern Afghanistan city of Khost.

The bomber detonated the explosives near the base dining hall at Camp Salerno, allowing other enemy fighters to stream into the base on foot – and open fire. A spokesman for the Taliban boasted that the insurgents had “suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, and hand grenades.” The attack injured dozens of troops.

The US military did not disclose the breadth of the breach in base security for some time. When the details emerged, it was clear that, “It was a pretty significant attack in terms of the amount of explosives used – and the ability to get that close and detonate them,” says Jeffrey Dressler, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.


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