Afghanistan Attacks Among Deadliest of the War

New details emerge in Taliban assault and rampant election fraud.

ByABC News
October 5, 2009, 9:07 AM

JALALABAD, Afghanistan Oct. 5, 2009— -- In the aftermath of one of the deadliest attacks since the start of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, new details have emerged about the fierce weekend firefight in Nuristan province.

At times, the Taliban breached U.S. defenses during the fighting, and one U.S. official said "everything in the area that was available," including helicopters, fighter jets and drones were called in to repel the attack.

Initial reports said that eight Americans have died in the attack and 24 were wounded. Two more Americans were killed by roadside bombs on Sunday, bringing the death toll for Americans in Afghanistan to at least 17 so far for the month of October, already making it one of the deadliest months of the war.

The bloody weekend increased pressure on the Obama administration during its ongoing review of military strategy there.

ABC News' Chris Cuomo, reporting from Jalalabad on "Good Morning America" Monday, said the situation in Nuristan was generally calm after three days of intense fighting near a pair of remote U.S. outposts in the Kamdesh district, just 10 miles from the Pakistan border. Military officials say more than 300 Taliban fighters descended on the U.S. compound which was just days away from being closed.

Revealing new details of the weekend attack, a senior military official told ABC News that a fire swept toward the compound during the fight, consuming "building after building, structure after structure." The fire forced U.S. troops back into one compound, meaning they were actually hunkered down at one point as the fighters sporadically gained access to the camp itself.

A senior officer told ABC News that initial reports indicated that the fighting spilled into the compound for a time. "They moved in and out," the source said.

Besides attacking from the mosque and the village, insurgents also held high ground and poured "significant and effective fire from elevated areas. The area they fired into was a valley," the senior military official said.

The insurgents reportedly launched their attacks from a nearby mosque where they had "significant and effective fire from elevated areas." The U.S. compounds are located in a valley. Military sources say the insurgents used a 50 caliber, heavy machine gun to rake the base.

U.S. forces called in air support right away, but rugged terrain and the raging fires restricted visibility for the pilots, "both in being able to come into the area and in identifying targets," a military official told ABC News.

ABC News correspondent Karen Russo flew into the battle zone on a Medevac helicopter and described cork-screwing into the landing zone to a valley at the bottom of steep mountains. There was little visibility because of the smoke and the area smelled of burned out pine trees, something one soldier described as "death and hell."

The military declined to identify the unit that was under attack until families of the soldiers were notified.