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U.S. Investigation Recommends Punishment for Deaths at Wanat

A U.S. military investigation of an ambush that killed nine soldiers and wounded twenty-seven has recommended that three officers be disciplined for their role in the events.  Among those who could face disciplinary action are Cpt.  Matthew Meyer, a Company Commander who was awarded a Silver Star for valor during the battle, and Lt. Col. William Ostlund, a Battalion Commander.

The ambush occurred in the village of Wanat near the Pakistani border, a town that the platoon was supposed to fortify to create a base of operations.  Before the platoon was able to complete the fortifications, though, approximately 200 insurgents attacked the base.  Though the platoon was not overrun, they suffered a near 75% casualty rate.  The report did not criticize the officers for the performance during the battle, but rather for being ill-prepared for such an attack in light of recent insurgent activity in the area.  Among the criticisms listed in the report were a lack of construction materials to complete the fortifications and a lack of water causing dehydration.  Moreover, of the two Predator drones in Afghanistan at the time, neither were assigned to Wanat despite reports that insurgents were regularly maneuvering around the base.  All of these factors contributed to insurgents nearly overrunning the outpost.

One of the soldiers killed in the ambush was 1st Lt. Jonathan Bostrom, the son of a recently retired Army Colonel.  Dissatisfied with the Army’s initial review of the events, Bostrom pushed the military to again review the incident to determine what went wrong.  Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) also pressed the military to investigate the ambush to determine how to prevent a repeat of the incident.  Initially, the M4 carbine, the U.S. military’s new weapon of choice, was considered to be a factor at Wanat, but subsequent reports have refuted this.

Colonel Ostlund, the Battalion Commander who could face possible punishment, is generally considered to be one of the top commanders in the Middle East.  After enlisting at seventeen, Ostlund completed a bachelor’s degree in just four semesters at Nebraska before earning a master’s degree in international relations from Tufts’s University.  Despite being personally attacked in the area several times, Ostlund decided to relocate troops to the valley to support reconstruction efforts.

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