The Battle of Wanat has slowly come to epitomize America’s decade-and-more-long adventure in Afghanistan. The final report, released last month, garnered significant media coverage. Even though the Battle of Kamdesh occurred a year later with roughly the same results, it still doesn’t seem to get the same respect.
I was in 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, The ROCK, the unit responsible for Wanat. Thus far, I have avoided voicing my opinion. Not that my opinion doesn’t matter--I just know too many people in too many places that I could offend with my blogging.
I do believe, though, I can provide at least one perspective that I haven’t seen in any of the coverage: a visceral explanation of why our battalion moved to Wanat.
Before Wanat, Chosen Company controlled two Combat Out Posts in the Waygal valley: COP Ranch House and COP Bella. In August of the 2007, Ranch House was nearly overrun in a Wanat-style attack. (Actually, Wanat was a Ranch House-style attack.) Through amazing fortune, no one was killed, though several soldiers were wounded.
After the attack, our battalion pulled back to COP Bella. But COP Bella, which supported Ranch House, wasn’t much better. It had high ground on every side, and was in probably more danger than Ranch House or Wanat. I never set foot on Bella, but I was in a helicopter that landed there to drop off some PAX on my way back to Camp Joyce.
Look at the rocks that surrounded Bella. Look at the size of the hills. Yeah COP Kahler/Wanat had high ground around it, but nothing like Bella. That is why the decision to go to Wanat started. We can second guess the decisions related to building the base and supporting the operation until we are blue in the face, but the point remains: in the Waygal valley, there were no good options and no easy answers, which in war there rarely are.