Probes into Bloody Afghan Battles at Keating, Ganjgal Whitewash McChrystal’s Role
February 22, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Military inquiries into two of the bloodiest battles of the War in Afghanistan, have concluded that two lower level field commanders are to blame for a series of actions and decisions that contributed to the deadly October 3, 2009 ambush at COP Keating and the Sept. 8, 2009 assault in the Eastern Kunar province in Ganjgal. The probes found that the decision to keep a remote and undermanned outpost open in Barg-e-Matal, diverted resources, personnel and air support when needed for the battles at COP Keating, also known as the Battle of Kamdesh, and Ganjgal. But an investigation by McClatchy, found that the official inquiries overlooked Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s role in ordering that Barg-e-Matal be kept open for both strategic and political reasons, despite the fact that it was in a remote area and was vulnerable to constant attack.
Four American soldiers lost their lives from July through September in Barg-e-Matal, five U.S. soldiers were killed in Ganjgal when they were pinned down by an assault by militant insurgents, without air cover support, and the bloody battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating, sometimes referred to as the “Black Hawk Down” of the Afghanistan war, the worst single American combat loss in 2009, left eight American soldiers dead and 22 wounded.
Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the spokesman for Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told McClatchy news services that the threat from insurgents in Barg-e-Matal “was both significant and real.” “Everyone knew why we were in Barg-e-Matal,” one U.S. defense official said. “McChrystal . . . was not in favor of pulling out because of the political ramifications.”
Nevertheless, the official inquiries did not hold McChrystal accountable for his decision. Two lower level field officers; Col. Randy George and Lt. Col. Robert B. Brown were disciplined for their “ineffective actions” that led “directly” to the deaths of their fellow soldiers. But according to McClatchy’s report, the two officers had urged McChrystal for months to close Keating and Barg-e-Matal.
George was hit with a letter of admonishment and Brown was given an official reprimand. The reprimand is quite serious and could end Brown’s career.
“Two American defense officials and a former NATO official” told McClatchy that the two officers are scapegoats:
“They are screwing these two guys,” the first U.S. defense official said of the field commanders. “They were looking for heads,” the second American defense official said. “It’s a travesty.”
McClatchy reported that, “Army Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, who conducted the Keating investigation, didn’t return calls seeking comment on why his report, which found that manning Barg-e-Matal delayed Keating’s closure for several months, didn’t hold McChrystal or any other general officer responsible for that decision.”
Gen. McChrystal’s spokesman further defended the top commander’s decision in Barg-e-Matal:
“The decision on the scale and tempo of support to Barg-e Matal was balanced against other competing operations,” said Smith, who added that the local militia in Barg-e-Matal is “doing a pretty effective job, so the investment has paid dividends.”
Whatever the case, the unnamed “two American defense officials and a former NATO official” believe that McChrystal and other top generals escaped blame for an ill advised policy to keep the remote outpost open in Barg-e-Matal, which subsequently led to the deaths of American soldiers.
Source: See McClatchy for more.
Photo Source: by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller, 5th Mobile Public Affairs
Detachment, Flickr photo stream.