February 26, 2011

Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) accused the Army of producing a “flawed and biased” history of the July 2008 battle of Wanat and called on the Army’s top leadership to change its account.

The Army’s history of the battle, which was released late last year, concludes that the deaths of nine U.S. soldiers in the fighting in Wanat, Afghanistan, were largely the result of the confusing and unpredictable nature of war. It faults 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, a 24-year-old platoon leader who was killed in the battle, for a series of errors that left U.S. troops vulnerable to attack.

The battle has been a subject of intense debate and controversy for more than a year. An earlier draft of the history and a subsequent investigation of the battle by a three-star Marine Corps general — who had been assigned to U.S. Central Command — concluded mid-level U.S. Army officers bore significant responsibility for the relatively large number of U.S. casualties.

Army Gen. Charles Campbell reviewed those findings and conducted his own inquiry before concluding that the company, battalion and brigade commanders were not derelict in their duties. The new Army history largely adopts Campbell’s findings.

Webb, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized the Army’s history for blaming a platoon leader for the casualties at Wanat and charged that the young officer wasn’t given the resources he needed to be successful.

“The [Army] study’s failure to assess the decisions made by more senior leaders makes this accounting flawed and biased,” Webb, who served as a Marine in the Vietnam War, wrote in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh.

Webb called on the Army to include the investigation done by U.S. Central Command last summer in its final report on the battle.

The Marine Corps general’s investigation, which was completed in the spring, found that the company and battalion commanders were “derelict in their duty” to provide proper oversight and resources to the soldiers fighting at Wanat.

jaffeg@washpost.com

Greg Jaffe covers the military for The Washington Post, where he has been since March 2009.
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