This weekend's deadly attack on an American combat outpost in remote eastern Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. servicemen was a highly organized assault by as many as 200 Taliban fighters that coalition military officials believe was staged from neighboring Pakistan.
A senior Defense Department official told ABC News today that attacks on outposts in eastern Afghanistan are a tactic often used by Taliban militants, but that this attack was noteworthy for its significant discipline, training and size of the attacking force.
Only days before the attack, 70 U.S. and Afghan soldiers had established their new combat outpost in the town of Wanat in Kunar Province, about 35 miles from the border with Pakistan.
There are many other similarly small outposts located throughout this part of eastern Afghanistan, manned by small groups of soldiers whose mission it is to interdict the lines of communication used by the Taliban from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
British Royal Navy Capt. Michael Finney, a spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan, told ABC News today that the camp defenses had yet to completed, possibly making it easier for the militants to breach the perimeter during the attack.
The assault began at 4:30 Sunday morning and lasted until noon as U.S. and Afghan forces engaged in intense combat to fight off 100 militants who had stormed the outpost armed with small weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.
Another 100 militants provided mortar support from nearby areas, using houses and a mosque in an adjacent village for cover. Village residents had been evacuated, although coalition officials are not sure if the Taliban forced them out or if they left because they knew of a potential attack, Finney said
U.S. troops quickly called for air cover from American warplanes, which dropped hundreds of pounds of bombs on the attackers. They included a B-1 bomber that dropped several 500-pound bombs, A-10 Thunderbolts that fired cannon rounds and bombed, and an Air Force Predator drone that fired a Hellfire missile at the militants.