Taliban attack on Nato base in Afghanistan is 'repelled'

Nato spokesman Brigadier General Josef Blotz: "The perimeter was not breached"

Insurgents have attacked Nato forces in eastern Afghanistan.

Several attackers were killed in the Taliban attack on a base at an airfield outside Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan.

Gunmen set off a car bomb and fired rocket-propelled grenades, wounding two soldiers, Nato said.

The US Senate has confirmed US Gen David Petraeus as the new commander of the campaign in Afghanistan.

The general earlier warned of an "industrial-strength insurgency" in the country, saying that fighting might "get more intense in the next few months".

His appointment follows the dramatic departure of Gen Stanley McChrystal last week.

In another development, UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox warned of further coalition casualties to come while stressing the dangers of withdrawing troops prematurely.

Commando-style raid

The attack began at 0730 local time (0300 GMT), with insurgents attacking the airport from different directions.

Analysis

The attack on the military base near Jalalabad airport was planned and co-ordinated, a sign that after nine years of fighting in Afghanistan, the Taliban still have plenty of fight in them, and are growing more sophisticated as the war goes on.

But the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) takes a different view. This attack was successfully repelled, and only the insurgents died. Civilian and Isaf injuries were minor.

The base is shared by Afghan and international troops, and Afghans, say Isaf, are increasingly taking lead in protecting the area, and attacking insurgents.

A Nato spokesman said the perimeter of the base had not been breached.

An Afghan soldier and one international service member were wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said six suicide attackers had taken part in the assault.

Eight insurgents died in the ensuing gun battles, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The attack is yet another example of the increasingly sophisticated assaults favoured by the Taliban, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.

These commando-style operations are increasing in numbers, and often result in higher civilian and military casualties.

A total of 100 Nato troops serving in Afghanistan were killed in June, making it the deadliest month for the alliance since the US-led invasion of 2001.

An Afghan army-led operation is taking place in nearby Kunar, where 600 troops are attempting to rout about 250 insurgents thought to have links to al-Qaeda.

'Trans-national terror' threat

Jalalabad is one of Nato's largest bases in Afghanistan, after Kandahar in the south and Bagram near Kabul.

Start Quote

[Premature withdrawal] would be a shot in the arm to jihadists everywhere”

End Quote Liam Fox UK defence secretary

Both of those bases have been attacked by insurgents in recent months.

Speaking in London, Mr Fox said the coalition must be prepared for increased insurgent violence.

"We are bound to meet resistance and increased violence until the Afghans believe that we are gaining the upper hand and we are willing to see this through," he said.

"That is why we are likely to see an increase in the number of coalition casualties over this summer."

"We must hold our nerve, maintain our resolve, and have the resilience to see the job through," he added.

Mr Fox argued that were coalition forces to leave now, the world would see "the return of the destructive forces of trans-national terror".

He identified the risk of civil war in Afghanistan creating a security vacuum and the "destabilisation of Pakistan with potentially unthinkable regional, and possibly nuclear, consequences".

To withdraw prematurely would mean giving "a shot in the arm to jihadists everywhere, re-energising violent radical and extreme Islamism", Mr Fox said.

Map of Afghanistan

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