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Wanat inquiry results may lead to punishments

Jan. 29, 2010 - 01:35PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 29, 2010 - 01:35PM  |  
Soldiers were abmushed in the village of Wanat, set in the rugged terrain of a remote river valley in eastern Afghanistan.
Soldiers were abmushed in the village of Wanat, set in the rugged terrain of a remote river valley in eastern Afghanistan. (Courtesy of 173rd ABCT soldiers)
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Findings from an investigation into the deadly July 13, 2008, battle in Wanat, Afghanistan, could lead to action against Army personnel, officials announced Jan. 29.

Nine soldiers were killed and 27 wounded in that battle.

In a statement, Army Secretary John McHugh said he has received the results of the Central Command investigation and is directing Gen. Charles Campbell, commander of Forces Command, to "review the recommendations and take action as he deems appropriate with regard to Army personnel identified in the report."

Army officials declined to name or say how many people were identified in the CentCom report.

Campbell has to complete his review within 90 days.

Army and Central Command officials also declined to release the findings of the investigation until Campbell completes his review.

"We remain in close contact with the families of our fallen from this battle, and they will be invited to a comprehensive briefing on the investigation following Gen. Campbell's actions," McHugh said in his statement.

The CentCom investigation, led by Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, commander of Marine Corps Forces Command, was announced Sept. 30, and it was prompted by allegations of command negligence.

Family members of the soldiers killed that day, along with Sen. Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, had called for further investigation into the battle.

In a July 9 statement, Webb called for a second look at the battle "after allegations of negligence at senior levels in the chain of command," were brought to his attention.

The investigation was to address issues that had arisen since the completion of the Army's initial AR 15-6 investigation, including the "facts and circumstances surrounding the combat action that occurred," according to the CentCom announcement at the time.

On July 13, 2008, 45 U.S. troops, accompanied by 24 Afghan soldiers, were attacked in the rugged Waygul Valley in Afghanistan's Konar province.

More than 200 enemy fighters swarmed the soldiers' small, remote combat outpost near the village of Wanat, and in the fierce battle with the larger, well-organized enemy force, nine paratroopers were killed and 27 wounded. It remains the single deadliest attack against U.S. forces since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, apart from incidents involving helicopter crashes.

Thirty-eight of the soldiers and all the dead were from 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which was two weeks from the end of their 15-month deployment. There were also five combat engineers from the 62nd Engineer Battalion, a two-Marine training team and 24 Afghan soldiers.

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