A powerful explosion wounded 77 American soldiers and killed five Afghans outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but failed to break the confidence of U.S. troops that they will prevail over the Taliban.
Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the attack, though high-profile, showed the Taliban’s inability rather than what they were capable of doing.
“They have been ejected from the population in so many places around the country that their only ability to influence the battlefield on many occasions is simply to go for a high-profile attack,” CNN quoted Allen as saying Sunday. “And that’s how we view this particular attack.”
At the 9/11 memorial at the American embassy in Kabul, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said, “Some back home have asked why we are still here.” He admitted it had been a long fight and people were tired.
“We’re here so that there is never again another 9/11 coming from Afghan soil. We, with our Afghan partners, figured out that the best way to ensure that is to work together and with the international community for a stable, secure, democratic Afghanistan.”
There are about 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Around 10,000 service members are scheduled to return by the end of this year. And by the end of 2014, all U.S. military personnel are expected to leave Afghanistan. According to CNN, around 2,700 NATO personnel have been killed in the war in Afghanistan.
The blast on Saturday night took place right outside the gates of Combat Outpost in Sayed-Abad district of central-east Wardak province, around 40 miles from the national capital of Kabul. It was carried out by a Taliban suicide bomber driving a truck carrying a massive bomb camouflaged with firewood. A protective barrier at the entrance absorbed most of the force of the blast, but the area outside the base bore the brunt.
The explosion was reported to be so powerful that it damaged about 100 shops in a nearby market. Apart from wounding 77 NATO service members, the blast killed five Afghans, including a policeman and four civilians. A 3-year-old girl was among the four civilians.
The International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that the wounded personnel were expected to return to duties shortly.
Last month, Taliban shot down a military helicopter in the same district, killing 31 U.S. special operation troops, mostly from the Navy SEAL Team 6 that killed Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan three months earlier.
In a video message issued by ISAF on Saturday, Allen praised the troops from the 49 nations serving in the coalition even as he noted that September 11 marked the 10th anniversary of an event that changed the world. “There is still much work to be done,” he acknowledged, but assured that “we will prevail.”
“You have helped the Afghan people build their nation, a democratic government and an ever-strengthening security force,” he added.