KABUL, Afghanistan — An insurgent raid that penetrated a U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine soldiers, has deepened doubts about the U.S. military's effort to contain Islamic militants and keep locals on its side.
Moving in darkness before dawn Sunday, about 200 fighters surrounded the newly built base in a remote area near the Pakistan border without being spotted by the troops inside, said Gen. Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh, the provincial police chief.
He said people in the adjacent village of Wanat aided the assault. About 20 local families left their homes in anticipation of the raid, while others stayed behind "and helped the insurgents during the fight," Jangalbagh said.
The result was the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since June 2005, when 16 American soldiers were killed as a rocket-propelled grenade shot down their helicopter.
Violence has been increasing in Afghanistan, and many people believe the Taliban-led insurgency is gaining momentum seven years after the hard-line Islamic regime was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion.
The coordinated assault at Wanat sent a strong signal to other insurgent groups that "America cannot resist them anymore," said Tamim Nuristani, who was fired as provincial governor last week by President Hamid Karzai's administration for criticizing a U.S. airstrike that Afghan officials say killed civilians July 4 in the same area as Sunday's attack.
Nuristani said the attackers at Wanat were a mix of Afghan- and Pakistan-based militants, some with al-Qaida links — a sign, he said, that cooperation is growing between what had been often fractious factions fighting the Western military presence in Afghanistan.
A NATO official said the attackers used houses, shops and a mosque in Wanat for cover during the hours-long battle.