Taliban militia engaged in a coordinated suicide assault on Kanadahar airport in southern Afghanistan Wednesday leaving 37 dead and 35 wounded.
The attack is one of the deadliest since the U.S. began drawing down in Afghanistan and raises concerns about the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The coordinated assault took place overnight and involved an entire squad of suicide bombers attacking Afghan security forces.
The operation began with Taliban fighters disguising themselves in combat fatigues that bore faint resemblance to the U.S. Army’s digital camouflage. Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal explains that once inside the airport grounds, the fighters began taking up positions and forming a perimeter in the civilian sector.
Several NATO military installations share the area with the civilians, making it a ripe target. Kandahar is also Afghanistan’s second largest city and a crucial staging area for operations against radical groups that inhabit the porous eastern border Afghanistan shares with Pakistan. This border region was one of the fiercest combat zones during the war in Afghanistan and was the location of the key battle of Tora Bora, during which Osama bin Laden himself allegedly narrowly escaped capture. The region continues to be a haven for Afghan terrorist organizations, particularly given its location next to the semi-autonomous and borderline lawless Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Pakistan.
Roggio explains that we are starting to see a trend with radical Islamic terror groups and their tactics, particularly in the use of multiple suicide bombers at once. “In November, an Islamic State suicide assault team attacked Paris, France and killed more than 120 people,” writes Roggio.
The events Wednesday come at a precarious time for Afghanistan. This attack follows an August suicide attack in Kabul, the Afghan capital and supposedly most secure area in the country. A report by the Institute for the Study of War explains that Taliban attacks since 2014 “were not typical of the previous two years” and particularly “high profile.” The U.S. draw down in Afghanistan is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016. The Taliban’s response appears to be: we are still here, and we are still a threat.