Commanders in Afghanistan facing Fear of Failure?

Remember Combat Outpost Keating?

This seems to have precipitated a change in tactics;

The U.S. military has reprimanded an unusually large number of commanders for battlefield failures in Afghanistan in recent weeks, reflecting a new push by the top brass to hold commanders responsible for major incidents in which troops are killed or wounded, said senior military officials.

The military does not release figures on disciplinary actions taken against field commanders. But officials familiar with recent investigations said letters of reprimand or other disciplinary action have been recommended for officers involved in three ambushes in which U.S. troops battled Taliban forces in remote villages in 2008 and 2009. Such administrative actions can scuttle chances for promotion and end a career if they are made part of an officer’s permanent personnel file.

Is this a case of trying to hold small unit leaders more accountable for failure to lead? Or possibly is it more a case of making them think twice about taking risks that could get anyone hurt or killed to achieve an illusion of success in Afghanistan in advance of the November elections?

Knowing the left and they way they like to project their own foibles onto their alternate party, they may be thinking “That’s what I’d do if I were the GOP, demonize and take advantage of battlefield losses to win elections”.

Following the attack of Combat Outpost Keating where eight US, three Afghan soldiers and one Afghan policeman were killed, an investigation was launched.


The base, Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province, was attacked by Taliban forces on Oct. 3. Because the outpost was located in a deep bowl surrounded by high ground, the attackers were able to pin down defenders and prevent them from using mortars to repel the initial attack. In addition, air support was at least 45 minutes away. A second, smaller outpost nearby was also struck by the attackers.

Via Roggio;

• The troop commander seemed to be very level-headed during the battle, and adjusted in a professional manner to several serious setbacks, such as losing his command post and ammunition dump. Only at one point did he appear to be rattled, early on when urging the helicopter to get on the scene as soon as possible lest the camp be fully overrun. The Squadron commander let his troop commander manage the battle and got the troop commander whatever resources he could.
• The base was nearly overrun. As mentioned, the US troops temporarily lost control of the command post and ammunition dump, and the troop commander lost contact with some of his troops. The Afghan Army and Afghan security guards’ checkpoints were completely overrun and set aflame.
• The US troops fought hard, and lost eight of their brothers. It could have been much worse. The helicopter and air support was the great equalizer against the massed Taliban assault.
• The US troops lost nearly everything they owned during the battle save the clothes on their backs.

The Outcome

Again, via PrariePundit;

“The investigation concluded that critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets which had been supporting C.O.P. Keating had been diverted to assist ongoing intense combat operations in other areas, that intelligence assessments had become desensitized to reports of massing enemy formations by previous reports that had proved false, and needed force protection improvements were not made because of the imminent closure of the outpost,” the report said. “These factors resulted in an attractive target for enemy fighters.”

The military’s account of the report, issued in a news release on Friday, suggested that any sanctions should be issued against higher-level officers, although it did not specify details. “Soldiers and junior leaders fought heroically in repelling an enemy force five times their size,” the statement said.

“The report also recommended administrative actions for some members of the chain of command to improve command oversight,” the statement said.

The Marine units, according to the WaPo article, have also been under the microscope;

In the third incident that has resulted in a reprimand, four Marines were killed near the eastern Afghanistan village of Ganjgal when they were ambushed on their way to a meeting with local villagers. Senior Marine officials alleged that the Army battalion in the area was slow to provide artillery support to ward off the attack. After an investigation, the battalion executive officer, who was the senior officer on duty at the time, received a letter of reprimand, Army officials said.

Is all this a case of pushing commanders to “get back to the basics” and pay more attention to detail? Speaking from experience, I’ve seen my higher-ups do or order things done that were really stupid, and could’ve gotten someone killed-but didn’t.

If this instead is a case where leadership on the ground is starting to become politicized, more folks will be killed over there, not less. Warriors who are afraid to take chances are usually the first to get someone killed or be killed themselves. Not like anyone in the current administration is likely to understand that or have experience with it. We’re reasonably sure there are none who even have experience running a small business, much less commanded troops in hostile areas.

I sincerely hope it’s the former, rather than the latter, and we need to be watching this closely.

Really, I put nothing past an Acorn Organizer with no time in an Army manual, but plenty of time with Rules for Radicals.