The Battle of Wanat

I was planning a lengthy post on the news that the Army’s review of the Battle of Wanat has been completed. But frankly, I’m a bit of a mess and undecided as to what is what. I’m getting conflicting views on what the real ground truth is (and I say this as someone who read the entire preliminary report when it was leaked). That said, other folks have a lot to say about this.

CDR Salamander thinks the Army is covering for its senior leaders.

Here’s the WaPo take on the matter.

Neptunus Lex chimes in.

And finally, Uncle Jimbo thinks the revised report is more the ground truth than the others.

I’ll just say this- while I do NOT want to see a return to a zero defect mentality, I also think senior leaders should be held accountable. Yes, the enemy gets a vote in every combat action. And we don’t want to see leaders so worried about how their actions will be reviewed that they instead take no action at all. But even honest mistakes call for accountability.

I had a friend that accidently fired 7 rounds from a SAW. Each round managed to hit two soldiers. Those two soldiers were critically wounded, but survived. My friend was court-martialed, and sentenced to 18 months in prison. For an honest, if stupid, mistake. A moment of inattention at about 3am. If enlisted soldiers can be sent to jail for making a mistake, is it too much for a senior officer to receive a letter of reprimand?

6 thoughts on “The Battle of Wanat”

  1. Been looking at these reports too, Art. I can’t help but believe that some innocent dead are being blamed, and some guilty living are being absolved. After this much ‘massaging’ of data, and ‘coaching’ of testimony, will the truth ever be known?
    I think that it will not.

    May GOD bless the fallen…

  2. I’m a sailor, so I have minimal expertise on the ground combat side of things. I have to say, though, that I’ve seen senior types in the Navy shuffle things downhill just as far and fast as they could manage, in order to leave themselves squeaky clean whenever possible. And of course, who more convenient to blame than those who, being dead, can’t defend themselves? When my first DH drove the ship through an area marked on the charts as being less than half the draft of the ship, he’d have blamed the QMOW for not telling him he was wrong, if the poor bastard had had the good grace to be dead. And if there hadn’t been 6 or 8 witnesses, too, of course.

    But, like I said, I don’t really know enough about this particular situation.

    Thanks for writing about it, though.

  3. Brad,
    My writing can be clunky – but I didn’t really throw a dart at the Army on this one. From my post –

    “In this case – I would give the Army the benefit of the doubt. War is messy. War in AFG exceptionally so, especially in 2008 where we had just started to understand that having NATO run the show was a mistake, war was not new, allies were not USA quality outside just a few nations, would never be there in quantity, and that we needed to change course in AFG if we wanted to create the right effects.

    We are still trying to get things right. On that note, I think the Army got this right – as right as a human institution can. The leaders on the ground did the right thing defending their name as well. After all – they were there.”

    1. Sir, I wasn’t trying to say that your entire post was a dart, but you did throw a small one about some truthy issues the Army has had. And it was a fair point. But I also know you weren’t reflexively slamming the Army. I don’t mind criticism of either my favorite institution, or of my posts. Just as long as it is fair.

  4. Some of what I have seen is the understandable desire to not see the names of the bravely departed dragged through to mud turned into you can’t say anything that might be construed as negative about their actions.

    Case in point, in the final report there is a lot of discussion about the placement of an OP. Where the OP was ultimately was positioned , the enemy took advantage of a blind spot and ultimately caused several friendly causalities. The LT that choose this OP may have been making the best of several bad choices or just may have chosen badly…I don’t know. That’s why we do AARs. It’s doesn’t mean the now deceased LT did a bad job, it just means the enemy was able to exploit the weakness in the defense.

    I do know the Army leadership tends to take care of its own and while commanders who screw up or are screwed up don’t necessarily pay for it by being relieved but a lot of the time they do end up paying for it…in that their OER’s reflect it and they won’t command again or have been forced to retire early (I know personally of a couple that were told to get out or else). I know that isn’t as satisfying as a public admonishment. But let’s face it unless someone was found to be criminally liable in a 15-6 investigation you won’t see it…at least in the Army you won’t.

  5. Courts Martial and prison is for the peasantry, Brad. I’m for shooting the senior officers myself. Pour encourager and all that.

    Seriously, the officer corps has always tried to protect itself from the errors of its ways. My observation is that when it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions, Ossifers are utter cowards. They talk a good fight, but that’s as far as it goes. The Soviets didn’t brook that nonsense, although they would send the troops to the gulag. The rest would be shot as proper officers as the trust they held was so much higher. Frankly, I think they had a point too.

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