Battle of Wanat
The Battle of Wanat took place on July 13, 2008, when around 200 Taliban insurgents attacked American troops stationed near Quam, in the
The Taliban encircled the remote base and its observation post, attacking it from Quam and surrounding farmland. They destroyed much of the U.S. troops' heavy munitions, broke through their lines, and entered the main base before being finally repelled by artillery and aircraft. The United States claimed to have killed at least 21 Taliban fighters for nine of its own soldiers killed and 27 wounded, together with four Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers wounded.
One of several attacks on remote outposts, the Battle of Wanat has been described as among the bloodiest Taliban attacks of the war. In contrast to previous assaults, from roadside bombings to haphazard ambushes, this attack was well-coordinated; fighters across different insurgent groups were able to precisely target key equipment, such as a wire-guided missile launcher, through a sustained and disciplined effort.
The battle became the focus of debate in the United States, generating "...a great deal of interest and scrutiny among military professionals and from outside observers..." mainly due to the relatively "...significant number of coalition casualties..." Several investigations were launched into events leading up to the battle. The initial investigation was completed in August 2008. In July 2009, Senator
In 2008, NATO forces in southeastern Afghanistan deployed sub-company-sized patrols to the Pakistan border to disrupt supplies flowing to the Taliban from the Federally Administered Tribal Regions of Pakistan. They established small patrol bases, which came under regular attack by Taliban forces.
In June, a small contingent of 48 American and 24 Afghan troops, 72 in total, were operating in and around Wanat, a mountain Quam that was the center of the Waygal District government and about 5 miles (8.0 km) from the coalition military base Camp Blessing. On July 4, a U.S. Army helicopter attacked vehicles they claimed were firing on them and killed 17 people. Locals claimed those killed were civilians, including doctors and nurses from a local clinic. Both sides reported Forward Observation Base (FOB) Bella was under attack by indirect fire. Intelligence reports said that the FOB was going to be overrun from within the base as well. The helicopter attack was in response to the indirect fire received from a mortar tube that was being fired from the bed of a Toyota Hilux pick-up. The initial Taliban radio transmissions that were intercepted reported that the "...big gun [mortar tube] had been hit..." and the Taliban commander had been killed. A few hours after the helicopter attacked, with the Chosen Company commander and the troops in contact confirming the targets, the Taliban radio reports changed to "...they killed the shop keeper [that had the same name as the Taliban commander], the big gun was not damaged, and all the enemy wounded and KIA were civilians."
Five days before the battle, on July 8, a platoon from the Second Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team established Vehicle Patrol Base (VPB) Kahler and a separate observation post called OP Top Side near Wanat. 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, departed from Camp Blessing after sunset in a ground assault convoy for the 90-minute-long drive to Wanat. The convoy contained five M1114 armored
The patrol base was situated on an open field about 300 meters long by 100 meters wide surrounded on two sides by buildings which composed the Quam. July 9, a six-man engineer squad arrived by
The Afghan company contracted to bring heavy construction equipment delayed its arrival to until July 13. It was decided that soldier labor — with the aid of an engineer squad and a Bobcat front-end loader already at Bella — would be good enough to prepare an initial defense in the six days until heavier equipment arrived. The number of men at the base was judged adequate to defend against intelligence estimates that placed the insurgent forces in the local area at about 150 experienced fighters, though they did not know that attackers would be backed up by other guerrilla groups from neighboring regions as far away as Pakistan and Kashmir. While they thought it was possible the base might be attacked while the camp was being prepared, they thought it unlikely. Platoon Sergeant Dzwik later remarked "I was expecting harassing fire from any one of the high ground in every direction. I did not think the village itself would let the AAF [Anti-Afghan Force] turn their village into a battle zone.
Soldiers at the base noticed warning signs, including groups of men watching the construction from the nearby village, which was set at a higher elevation than the outpost, and other groups of men moving through nearby mountains. At a dinner meeting in the village, a villager told the Americans that they should shoot any men seen in the mountains, and asked them if U.S. UAVs were keeping watch nearby. The day before the attack, militants began flowing water through an irrigation ditch feeding an unused field, creating background noise that masked the sounds of the advancing fighters.
Although the Americans believed that 100 or 200 attacked the base, a senior Afghan defense ministry official who did not reveal his name told