KABUL, Afghanistan – Insurgents wearing U.S. Army uniforms launched pre-dawn attacks Saturday on a major NATO base in eastern Afghanistan and a nearby camp where seven CIA employees were killed last year in a suicide bombing. NATO said there were no coalition casualties and the attacks were repelled.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s presidential office condemned U.S. media reports that Afghan government officials have received payments from the CIA in return for information.
A former U.S. official told The Associated Press on Friday that the CIA has paid members of the Afghan government to track various factions within it. The practice has raised concerns at a time when the United States is pressing Afghan officials to make the government less corrupt.
The New York Times reported the agency is paying Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for Afghanistan’s National Security Council, for information. The Washington Post also had the report on Friday.
NATO said at least 21 insurgents were killed — including four who were wearing suicide vests — and five captured in Saturday’s coordinated attacks.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry put the insurgent death toll in the attacks at 24, with five captured and no casualties on the police side. The Defense Ministry said two Afghan soldiers were killed and three wounded in the fighting.
The assaults on the sprawling Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and nearby Camp Chapman came around 3 a.m., just as area residents were rising for early morning prayers.
The area, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Kabul near the border with Pakistan, is a hotbed of activity by the Taliban and other insurgent groups, including the December attack on Chapman that killed four CIA officers and three contracted security guards.
In recent months similar attacks have been launched against U.S. bases at Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
Afghan police said about 50 insurgents attacked using rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, but had been repelled.
After being driven away from the bases, the insurgents approached the nearby offices of the governor and provincial police headquarters but were driven off, said Khost provincial police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.
“Given the size of the enemy’s force, this could have been a major catastrophe for Khost. Luckily we prevented it,” he said.
Small arms fire continued through the morning, while NATO helicopters patrolled overhead.
NATO said two insurgents had managed to breach Salerno’s perimeter, but were observed cutting the fence and killed immediately.
Dead insurgents were seen wearing camouflage jackets and pants seemingly identical to those warn by U.S. Army soldiers….