U.S. troops repel Taliban attack at eastern Afghan airport

McClatchy NewspapersApril 6, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan — An insurgent attack late Tuesday at the airport in the eastern city of Jalalabad left at least seven militants dead in the latest sign that the Taliban are stepping up assaults as the weather warms.

A statement Wednesday by the governor of Nangarhar province said the attack came shortly before midnight as the governor met with other officials at the airport to discuss security. U.S. troops, who are based at the airport, responded along with Afghan troops, the statement said.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar, a key province that borders the Taliban-dominated tribal region of neighboring Pakistan and includes the main supply route for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has long complained that Pakistan has done little to prevent Taliban insurgents from using the tribal region as a haven, a charge that Pakistan denies. But on Tuesday, the Obama administration released a report that said Pakistan had no "clear path toward defeating" insurgents in the region despite committing tens of thousands of troops to the effort.

The statement from the Nangarhar governor’s office said the dead militants hadn't been identified, but the Taliban claimed the attack in a posting on their website.

The Taliban said the firefight with coalition troops lasted 30 minutes. They claimed that nine coalition soldiers had been killed and seven wounded and that three helicopters had been destroyed. Neither the governor’s office nor the U.S-led International Security Assistance Force, the formal name for the coalition, reported troop deaths. The Taliban frequently exaggerate the impacts of their attacks.

The ISAF statement described the attack as taking place at a forward operating base in the Behsud district, which includes the airport. It said the assault consisted of rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire and that there were no ISAF casualties. It gave no specific number for Taliban dead.

The provincial police chief, Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, confirmed that there were no coalition casualties

In February, insurgents raided a bank branch in Jalalabad where Afghan security forces were picking up their pay, killing at least 40 and wounding dozens of others.

(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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