December 02, 2011

The Battle of Wanat

I am not an American. I am not a soldier. I am not an expert.  I am interested in military history, recent history, and there is a battle that is as important, and just as brutal, as the one depected in "Blackhawk Down". The real life battle in Moganishu, Operation Gothic Serpent, October 3 and 4, 1993 was made into a book and movie - the event is now more commonly known as "Blackhawk Down".  From what I've been told, it shows war how it is. Less black and white, less lines between us and them, it's all grey, and it's all crazy in the firefight. Screaming, explosions, gunfire, death - it's war.

There are hundreds... thousands... tens of thousands of battles that have raged on on Afghanistan between the NATO coalition and the Taliban, and most will never be known, but one sticks out to me, and it's shocking it isn't as famous as Blackhawk Down, it was the Battle of Wanat.
9 Americans were killed in the firefight, the platoon was only made up of 45 men, 3/4 of the platoon was wounded or dead by the end of the battle, and the base they were in was almost overrun.  Apache helicopters were over an hour away.  Predator drones, their eyes in the sky, were diverted to other "priorities" and were not around.  The base was so close to being lost and all Americans killed that Taliban fighters were in the base, looting the base, they made off with radios and equipment from inside the buildings.  The timeline of events has more or less been sorted out, there has been an inquiry, and the American military lost a lot of good men to bad planning that day.  The responsible commanding officers all received reprimands, and the General in charge quit when the administration refused to reprimand him too (Ret. Maj. Gen. JeffreySchloesser; you are a true man of honour).

Here is the CBS News coverage of the event, much after the fact.

Here is the gun-camera footage from the Apaches when they got there over an hour from when the battle started.  By then most of the platoon had hunkered down in a corner of the base and the Taliban was busy making off with whatever they could carry.

ABC News presents Taliban video shot during the very same battle.

Tom Ricks has some fantastic coverage of the issue, over at Foreign Policy magazine, he writes a blog for them, I highly recommend reading it daily.

Tom Ricks on CNN with Fareed Zakaria

I'm not sure why there hasn't been more attention paid to Wanat, maybe someone will make it into a movie and catch people's attention