Disastrous 2008 Battle Sways Afghanistan Strategy

Report details heroism, costly errors in firefight that left 9 dead

By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 3, 2009 7:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – A battle 18 months ago that has come be called the "Black Hawk Down" of Afghanistan, with nine Americans soldiers killed and 27 wounded, is drawing new scrutiny in Washington as a snapshot of what has gone wrong in the war effort there. A company of paratroopers, who had landed just days before in Wanat, were still digging in their new outpost when they were overrun by 200 militants, resulting in a catastrophic 4-hour firefight. One insurgent managed to get inside the unit's command post, where he killed three soldiers, including the platoon commander.

A history of the battle, obtained by the New York Times, is said to be one of the factors influencing Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy shift to a style of counterinsurgency that focuses on winning over locals more than killing militants. Missteps in the battle started with lack of training geared specifically to Afghanistan, a shortage of air surveillance, and zero rapport with the local population.

This undated picture provided by the US Army shows Army 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, July 13, 2008, in the town of Wanat.   (AP Photo/U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii)
Reinforcement Afghan police officers pose together as they are expected to go for recapturing the village of Wanat in Nuristan province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday July 17, 2008. U.S. and Afghan...   (AP Photo)
Map locates Wanat, Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has abandoned a nearby outpost
US Marines with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 5th Marines, run for cover after it appeared the Taliban was zeroing in on their position, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 2, 2009.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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