Nov 29 at 12:12pm by David Tate
A miles long resupply convoy in northwestern Afghanistan was attacked November 27 by up to 300 militants resulting in 13 dead and another 16 missing. The casualties are a mix of security forces, including Afghan National Army.
The 70 vehicle convoy was making its way through Akazai, Baghdis Province carrying winter supplies and other needs for Afghan Security Forces (ASF) in the province. According to local security officials, the fighting lasted more than three hours and nearly two dozen vehicles, with supplies, were also taken.
International troops called to the scene say as many as 40 of the militants also died in the battle. That assessement offered following supporting airstrikes.
While one report says 16 government troops have been captured, local security leaders remain cautious. “It is not known if they have been captured or have gone into the mountains and taken positions,” said regional police chief Ali Khan Hussain Zada.
This story is still developing and will be updated as it evolves.
Nov 29 at 11:11am by David Tate
Coalition forces looking for a Taliban commander in Ghazni Province are attacked by a burqa-clad “woman” who turns out to be their intended target.
The coalition reports Haji Yakub, the leader of a bomb-making ring that also facilitated foreign fighters into Qaragbagh district, was among a group of woman who were being questioned during a cordon and search operation.
Earlier as coalition forces approached Yakub’s suspected hideout, two men engaged the force with small arms and were ultimately killed.
With the compound surrounded, those left inside were ordered to surrender and leave the building peacefully. Six women and twelve children soon emerged.
As troops began to question the women, one of them tried to engage the force and was killed on the spot. The “woman” was later identified as Yakub.
Nov 16 at 11:11am by David Tate
I have devoted considerable time covering this event, which to me, was immediately recognizable as culminating in one of those iconic string of battles that great American military tradition is born from.
Below is a chronological archive of articles I have written regarding this incident. I hope this helps ease the hassle it takes to locate good, reliable information regarding Chosen 2/503 and their time in eastern Afghanistan.
July 14 – Militant Confederacy Behind Attack
July 16 – US Leaves Wanat
July 28 – Americans Knew Attack Imminent
November 4 – Attack on Americans Well Planned
November 6 – Road to Wanat Pt. 1
November 7 – Road to Wanat Pt. 2 (includes after action report).
Nov 7 at 11:11am by David Tate
Below is the complete after-action report regarding the Battle of Want (Wanat). I finally figured out how to attach a pdf file to my blog so I apologize for the delay and my attempt to write it out for you.
This is a very detailed description of the battle for anyone interested in this incredible show of bravery and courage from the American fighting man.
Nov 6 at 1:01pm by David Tate
According to the US military, the Battle of Wanat (July 13, 2008) was a culmination of events – from over the previous twelve months – that must be looked at in context with the action at Wanat. This is the first of a multi-part series that will break apart the 40 page after action report and adding context using other credible, open source reporting, which includes my own research.
The first event noted is the battle for COP Aranus, also known as “The Ranch House”. On August 22nd, 2007 nearly 100 militants attacked the small outpost that lies less than a half dozen miles northeast of Wanat.
The US military believes a disgruntled former Afghan security chief at the COP used his intimate knowledge of the base to allow insurgents to launch a coordinated three-pronged attack, seriously wounding eleven of 22 paratroopers.
The report notes that “only the valorous actions of several brave paratroopers prevented the Ranch House from being completely overrun.”
The coordinated attack on the outpost was a hail of bullets and rocket propelled grenades that came so suddenly that at least one soldier was woken up from grenades slamming into his sleeping quarters.
The Taliban then quickly overpowered the Afghan end of the base, capturing their arsenal and turning the firepower on the Americans. The barrage collapsed one the the security posts, trapping a man inside.
The Tactical Operation Center also came under intense, concentrated fire which knocked out the unit’s communication antennas. SSgt. Erich Phillips would rally the soldiers to form a defense around the TOC while the commanding officer, 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara, reestablished communications and directed supporting fire, including danger close strafing runs within their perimeter, which eventually broke the assault.
Phillips would win the Distinguished Service Cross and Ferrara the Silver Star for their actions.
Weeks after the attack the base was closed, as planned; much of the decision due to its remoteness.
Ambush in Aranus
On November 9, 2007, 1st Platoon, Chosen Co. (2/503, 173rd ABCT), aside Afghan National Army soldiers, was ambushed as they returned to their base (Camp Bella) following a meeting with tribal elders regarding humanitarian issues. The meeting was at a school house built earlier by the same unit.
Six Americans and two Afghans died, another eight Americans and three Afghans were wounded in a hail of RPG and rifle fire at their dismounted patrol. The survivors included SSgt. Erich Phillips; the dead would include 1st. Lt. Ferrara, who was killed carrying a list of future projects for the community.
The Americans noticed a change in the local attitude following the attack which didn’t include any showing of condolences, as was custom. The attack changed the 173rd’s view of the area and humanitarian projects were stopped.
Camp (COP) Bella
On January 26, 2008, Bella’s platoon sergeant, SFC Matthew Kahler, was checking out the silent radio of an Afghan security guard manning a forward position. As he approached the spot where the guard was stationed, he was shot and killed. The Afghan fled the scene and disappeared. The context of this event seems to point to the fact that US forces understood the local police force was likely infiltrated by insurgents.
Bella was the northernmost position in the Waygal Valley following the closing of COP Aranus. Bella’s days were limited as well, primarily due to the base’s location, which made it difficult to defend.
The decision to close Bella and move to Want was made in June 2008. On July 8 and 9, as Bella was being evacuated, multiple probing attacks were launched and a large scale attack (as many as 300 fighters) was averted.
What the report doesn’t mention (except in a small notation), and must be noted, is that in July 2008, several prominent Afghans from the area around Bella were killed in a US air strike; including the two local doctors and the land owner who deeded the land for Bella’s existence. Locals have repeatedly said that event allowed for an opening into the community that the Taliban exploited and gained confidants.
Tommorow I will continue this report.
Nov 4 at 9:09pm by David Tate
New information is out suggesting the attack on a small outpost in Nuristan July 13, which resulted in 9 dead paratroopers, likely had been in the works before the mixed US/Afghan detachment ever arrived in Want, where the attack occurred.
An article from The New York Times claims a post-action report, made by an unnamed colonel, outlines the events that lead up to, and through, the four hour firefight in Nuristan’s Waygal Valley.
The attack by more than 200 militants was launched at 0420, the first 20 minutes of which was intense, heavy grenade and rifle fire from ranges as close as 15 yards. Eventually US close air support, helicopter support and artillery fire helped break the assault.
Time to Plan
Part of the major criticism is in regards to the 10 months it took NATO to negotiate the placement of the base. Coalition forces had just started construction five days before the attack which leads investigators to believe the site was well researched by the enemy and then exploited at its most vulnerable time.
In all, the coalition force was comprised of 72 men; 24 Afghans and 48 Americans (paratroopers, Marine ETTs and combat engineers). Other than the nine paratroopers killed in action, 27 other Americans were wounded, making the American casualty rate for the battle 75%. Four Afghan soldiers were also wounded.
Other new main points from the report:
1. The local police chief and another district official aided the attackers, most likely under duress. However, the report recommends both the district governor and police chief either be replaced or arrested. Officer in charge of the area disagrees citing cooperation.
2. Taliban fighters crept into Want the night before the attack and told the villagers to leave. They then built fighting positions from homes and the mosque.
3. The report confirms (as I first reported) villagers repeatedly warned the Americans, although such a large assault was not considered plausible at that time. This despite knowledge of a 300 strong Taliban force operating in region earlier in the month.
4. Taliban fighters routed water into a ditch and field near the American position so the noise would help conceal the Taliban movement.
5. The police force in Want was found with large amounts of weapons and ammunition that is suspected to have been used by militant fighters. Following the battle (smoke from which could be seen for miles) the local police force of 20 acted “as if nothing was wrong”.
6. Coalition officers at all levels of the fight were exonerated of wrong doing. “The actions by leaders at all levels were based upon sound military analysis, proper risk mitigation and for the right reasons,” the report said.