I’m going to head over to the Dirksen Senate office building pretty soon to cover the Soufan/Zelikow hearings. But before I go: it looks like Khost province, in eastern Afghanistan, is the target of increasing insurgent activity.
It seems like every few days I get a press release from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan about another attack — successful or thwarted — in Khost. (Sorry, I don’t have links for them, they’re emailed to me.) Yesterday afternoon, U.S. and Afghan forces stopped a suicide attack “by multiple groups of insurgents,” including from a suicide bomber “dressed as” a member of the Afghan security forces. (Uh, yeah, dressed as...) The insurgents attacked several municipal buildings in the heart of the city of Khost, taking hostages, and it took about five hours for U.S. and Afghan forces to subdue the assault. That’s a pretty brazen, complex attack.
And it follows an emerging pattern. Earlier that day, if I’m not misreading another release, an Improvised Explosive Device went off just outside Forward Operating Base Salerno, the headquarters of U.S. forces in the province right on the Pakistan border. April 25: U.S. forces detained a suspected member of the Haqqani and Massoud (that’s Pakistani Taliban) organizations in the province. April 16: IED turns up in the heart of the district. April 11: Afghan forces find a bomb-rigged vehicle in the Saberi district. April 9: a shootout with insurgents that left a baby dead. April 4: Joint U.S.-Afghan raid in the Lagharah Valley captures an alleged Taliban commander. I count another 7 such incidents in March.
What’s going on in Khost? One explanation is that Task Force Curahee, the unit operating in the province since last April that was built around the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne — and which was kind enough to host me on my embed last September — transitioned out of Khost and adjacent provinces last month. Insurgents may be looking to take advantage of the rotation schedule. Curahee apparently stepped up its own operational tempo in response.
That’s a preliminary guess as I’m pretty much out the door to cover the Soufan/Zelikow thing. More on this later, but keep an eye on Khost as a locus for insurgent activity. It’s right on the Pakistan border — you can literally see Pakistan from Salerno — and insurgents have been trying to cut U.S. forces off from Kabul by attacking the one road that links the two areas.