Mil­i­tary ig­nored in­tel­li­gence warn­ing of at­tack

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY BILL GERTZ

Three in­tel­li­gence re­ports warned that Tal­iban in­sur­gents were plan­ning an at­tack just days be­fore this month’s raid on two re­mote mil­i­tary out­posts in east­ern Afghanistan that killed eight U.S. sol­diers, but the re­ports were dis­missed as in­signif­i­cant, U.S. of­fi­cials told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

As a re­sult, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials did not send ad­di­tional troops or make prepa­ra­tions to pro­tect the 140 U.S. and Afghan troops at the com­bat out­posts near Kamdesh in Nuris­tan prov­ince by the Pak­istan bor­der, the of­fi­cials said.

Army Maj. T.G. Tay­lor, a spokesman for the Army’s Task Force Moun­tain War­rior, told The Times that the three re­ports did not stand out among hun­dreds of oth­ers and that the in­tel­li­gence was deemed to be not spe­cific and un­cor­rob­o­rated.

“Re­ports like this hap­pen all the time in all of our ar­eas,” Maj. Tay­lor said in an e-mail. “It is only through cor­rob­o­ra­tion of re­ports and/or mul­ti­ple in­stances of re­port­ing that we can de­velop pat­terns.”

One U.S. of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the in­for­ma­tion, said that de­spite the Army’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the re­ports as in­signif­i­cant, some of the re­port­ing was in­cluded in fin­ished in­tel­li­gence that cir­cu­lated in classified chan­nels through­out the re­gion be­fore the at­tack. Fin­ished in­tel­li­gence is ma­te­rial that has been an­a­lyzed and de­ter­mined to be of value.

A for­mer se­nior Army of­fi­cer said the in­tel­li­gence should have prompted action to pro­vide the out­posts with more de­fenses.

“Why didn’t they re­act and have im­me­di­ate sup­port on site, based on the in­tel­li­gence, and even based on the ini­tial at­tack that occurred?” re­tired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Val­lely asked.

Gen. Val­lely said the out­posts near the bor­der should have been staffed with more Afghan troops, who de­spite eight years of U.S. as­sis­tance and train­ing are not deemed ca­pa­ble of run­ning such posts them­selves.

The at­tacks on the Keat­ing and Fritsche out­posts — the dead­li­est in more than a year — are now be­ing re­viewed by the Pen­tagon. The dis­clo­sure of prior in­tel­li­gence warn­ings comes as Pres­i­dent Obama is weigh­ing a re­quest by his top com­man­der in the re­gion to de­ploy up to 40,000 ad­di­tional troops to Afghanistan.

Some 200 Tal­iban in­sur­gents at­tacked the out­posts on the morn­ing of Oct. 3 with as­sault ri­fles and rocket-pro­pelled grenades, nearly over­run­ning the for­ti­fied bases.

They killed eight U.S. Army sol­diers and two Afghan sol­diers, mak­ing it the dead­li­est sin­gle at­tack against al­lied forces in Afghanistan since a sim­i­lar raid in nearby Wanat in July 2008. Nine U.S. sol­diers were killed in that bat­tle, which prompted a reeval­u­a­tion of U.S. coun­terin­sur­gency tac­tics in Afghanistan.

One of the in­tel­li­gence re­ports on Kamdesh, re­leased in part to The Times, stated that a new Tal­iban sub-com­man­der in Kamdesh, named Ghu­lan Faroq, had been ap­pointed and “charged with at­tack­ing COP Keat­ing,” but no date for the at­tack was given. COP is mil­i­tary short­hand for com­bat out­post.

The re­port also stated that on

A for­mer se­nior Army of­fi­cer said the in­tel­li­gence should have prompted action to pro­vide the out­posts with more de­fenses. “Why didn’t they re­act and have im­me­di­ate sup­port on site, based on the in­tel­li­gence, and even based on the ini­tial at­tack that occurred?” re­tired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Val­lely asked.

or about Sept. 29 or 30, “fight­ers in Kamdesh re­ceived a re­sup­ply of B-10 am­mu­ni­tion” suit­able for use with Soviet-de­sign B-10 re­coil­less guns that fire 82 mm mor­tar­like rounds.

A sec­ond re­port stated that, around Oct. 2, a Tal­iban meet­ing took place in Kamdesh and that “a Tal­iban com­man­der will ar­rive in Kamdesh soon to con­duct at­tacks against coali­tion forces.”

The third re­port stated that around late Septem­ber, “a Tal­iban com­man­der planned to con­duct si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tacks against coali­tion bases in Ge­wardesh, Kamu and Kamdesh re­gions of Nuris­tan and that each at­tack would be per­pe­trated by 10-15 Tal­iban fight­ers in each lo­ca­tion.”

“At the same time as th­ese at­tacks, an­other unit would at­tack Barg-e Matal with up to 150 fight­ers.”

De­spite the in­for­ma­tion in the in­tel­li­gence re­ports, Maj. Tay­lor in­sisted that the at­tack took the 50 U.S. troops and 90 Afghan po­lice of­fi­cers and sol­diers at the com­bat out­posts by sur­prise.

“There was no early warn­ing of at­tacks or sig­nif­i­cant re­port­ing in the area, which would lead us to be­lieve there would be at­tacks,” he said.

Asked to de­fine sig­nif­i­cant re­port­ing, Maj. Tay­lor said that “no sig­nif­i­cant re­port­ing means that there was no re­port­ing that would lead any­one to be­lieve that any­thing was out of the or­di­nary.”

Nuris­tan prov­ince is con­sid­ered a hot­bed of al Qaeda and Tal­iban forces. It is lo­cated close to the bor­der where in­sur­gents reg­u­larly cross into refuges in Pak­istan.

The Army op­er­ates sev­eral in­tel­li­gence units in the east­ern re­gion of Afghanistan that are in charge of col­lect­ing, an­a­lyz­ing and dis­sem­i­nat­ing re­ports. A mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween head­quar­ters and the out­posts was not a prob­lem.

Maj. Tay­lor said the at­tack on the out­posts, which left at least 27 in­jured, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the mil­i­tary un­der Ar­ti­cle 156 of the Uni­form Code of Mil­i­tary Jus­tice. Such in­quiries oc­cur “any time there is a loss of life,” he said.

Be­fore the at­tack, the 200 Tal­iban and other Is­lamist in­sur­gents in­fil­trated a mosque in Kamdesh and dug into po­si­tions on ad­ja­cent hill­sides within fir­ing range of the bases.

The U.S. and Afghan sol­diers fought back with 155 mm ar­tillery de­spite heavy en­emy fire that lim­ited their ca­pac­ity to re­turn fire. The sol­diers re­ceived no com­bat air sup­port un­til Apache at­tack he­li­copters reached the out­posts 30 min­utes af­ter the at­tack be­gan.

Af­ter the July 2008 bat­tle at nearby Wanat, the mil­i­tary con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine whether com­man­ders had been neg­li­gent. Mil­i­tary an­a­lysts say that bat­tle led to a de­ci­sion to be­gin mov­ing forces out of re­mote hard-to-de­fend ar­eas.

Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, com­man­der of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, has pro­posed a coun­terin­sur­gency strat­egy that would move U.S. troops closer to larger pop­u­la­tion cen­ters with a goal of bet­ter pro­tect­ing the Afghan pub­lic against the in­sur­gents. The risk is that the Tal­iban will be able to move more freely and con­trol more of the coun­try­side.

Both Kamdesh and Wanat are symp­to­matic of what crit­ics have called the “un­der-re­sourced war” in Afghanistan — one that is be­ing fought with too few troops and without other needed equip­ment.

A draft U.S. mil­i­tary re­port cir­cu­lat­ing in mil­i­tary cir­cles stated that troops at the Wanat out­post were dis­tracted by prepa­ra­tions for re­place­ments and did not have enough sur­veil­lance drones in use to de­tect prepa­ra­tions for the at­tack.

The com­bat posts at Kamdesh were aban­doned days af­ter the bat­tle and then bombed by U.S. air­craft. West­ern news agen­cies re­ported that a Tal­iban spokesman had boasted that the group’s flag was fly­ing over the aban­doned out­posts.


A flag-cov­ered case con­tain­ing the re­mains of Army Sgt. Joshua Kirk of South Port­land, Maine — one of eight Amer­i­can sol­diers killed in an at­tack on an Afghan out­post that in­tel­li­gence re­ports had pre­dicted, ar­rives Oct. 6 at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

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