Washington (CNN)An al Qaeda training camp in southern Afghanistan that was the target of a major raid last week had been operating since last November -- and the U.S. didn't learn the full details about the site until July, coalition forces said in an email Wednesday.
Major al Qaeda camp was unknown to U.S. for months
Earlier this month, U.S. airstrikes, along with U.S. and Afghan ground troops, conducted the assault operations in an area known as Shorabak, close to the Pakistan border. Al Qaeda had set up two sites, a one-mile-square training camp and a second site of nearly 30 square miles it controlled.
The coalition conducted 63 airstrikes on the site, and a ground assault team of more than 200 Afghan and U.S. troops on the ground attacked both targets. It is estimated by the U.S. that more than 160 suspected terrorists were killed from a number of groups. U.S. officials have said they believe a number of al Qaeda and related terrorist group members have been pushed into Afghanistan due to pressure from Pakistani military operations on the other side of the border.
The October 11 raid was "one of the largest ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan," Pentagon spokesman Gen. Wilson Shoffner said. He said the U.S. struck a "major al Qaeda sanctuary," seizing a large number of weapons and digital media equipment, but he did not say how long al Qaeda had evaded detection there.
Coalition forces told CNN that the strike occurred after several hundred hours of surveillance, but did not say why the camp was not struck earlier.
"Bottom line is that this camp was built to be a high end training facility to prepare enemy personnel," the email said. "This camp is unique in its level of technical training. The training camp was broken down by basic and advance training areas. Training ranged from physical fitness, weapons training (small arms to advanced explosive training, indirect fire), chemistry to produce advanced explosives, and higher level sniper training," coalition forces said.