KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The attack this week on a major Afghan police base in Kandahar that killed nine — including three American soldiers — was the best planned and most advanced that U.S. soldiers who fought it off have seen in the past year, U.S. military officials said Thursday.
"It was definitely well-planned and coordinated, much better than anything we've seen before," said Capt. Steven Davis, 26, of Lansing, Mich., as U.S. and Afghan forces worked to repair the damage. His unit, the 82nd Airborne's 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived about a year ago.
The assault began Tuesday night when at least three attackers blew up the rear wall of the elite police compound in a Taliban-saturated part of Kandahar. Although it was initially thought to be a car bomb, Davis said explosives planted alongside the compound wall caused the first blast.
As Afghan and American forces inside the base rushed to fend off the attack, Taliban fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns during a half-hour battle that killed three American soldiers, one Afghan police officer and five Afghans working with the U.S.-led coalition forces, NATO officials said.
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The assault — which involved at least three Taliban suicide bombers — was the latest in a series of well-planned Taliban strikes that are forcing American and Afghan forces to adapt.
In the past two months, Taliban fighters have used similar tactics to hit major coalition military bases in Kandahar, Bagram and Jalalabad.
Tuesday's target was a burgeoning base that houses members of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, an elite unit dispatched to Kandahar to set up a new ring of checkpoints around Kandahar city.
The checkpoints had been operating about two weeks when the Taliban hit the central command base.
"It's very difficult, unless you are on an island, to lock down a city," Davis said. "What we've done is take away their main routes of entry and forced them into more open areas. I wouldn't say that we're going to eradicate all enemy presence in Kandahar city, but the SRPF (security ring protection force) is providing an immediate and lasting increase to security here."
Davis praised the elite Afghan force for responding quickly to the attack and coordinating with American forces.