The Contribution of the Afghan National Army in the Battle of Wanat

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

During the Battle of Wanat, nine U.S. Soldiers perished and twenty seven were wounded, while no Afghan National Army troops died and five were wounded.  This metric needs clarification, in that eight of the nine who perished that fateful night did so either defending or attempting to relieve Observation Post Top Side.  But further clarification of this metric shows us that the ANA troops apparently wouldn’t have been assigned to OP Top Side anyway specifically because of qualifications and reliability.  Additionally, the wounded were mainly applicable to COP Kahler, the main base at VPB Wanat.  The ratio of U.S. to ANA wounded is an instructive metric.

All over Afghanistan, First Lieutenants and Captains are assessing the reliability of the ANA troops with whom they patrol and fight.  This is a daily affair, and occurs through anecdotal evidence, via collaboration with fellow officers, and by various other means.  The model of understanding developed by these officers can be amended by other data points, and thus the model is a learning and evolving model as it should be.

The model The Captain’s Journal has developed thus far takes a fairly dim view of the capabilities and reliability of ANA troops thus far.  On the whole they have not performed well.  This doesn’t impugn all of the troops, but of course metrics don’t do that; they are normative and broadly applicable to general  questions.

This model has apparently been fairly consistent with the witness of the officers – both commissioned and NCOs – involved in the battle of Wanat.  First, 1 Lt. Brostrom weighs in on how he saw the ANA, stating that the ANA he was taking with him he considered not to count towards combat power.  Next, the NCOs and enlisted men weigh in (unpublished study).

… the ANA Company remained in their fighting positions, in the middle of the COP, and to the south at the southernmost TCP.  Numerous Chosen Company soldiers complained of their inactivity. One soldier with the 1st Squad TCP claimed that: “The ANA had fled from their position.”   Another Sergeant stated, “I also remember ANA not shooting that much and never leaving their foxholes.”  Sergeant _____ was not professionally impressed with the ANA performance:

They never got out of their holes. They only had four wounded, which tells me that the enemy directed their fire at the Americans, not the Afghans. The Afghans sprayed and prayed. That’s about it. To be honest, though, it was more than I expected. The other numerous occasions I’ve been on with Afghan soldiers as our backup, they ran.

Sergeant _______ summed up what most of the Chosen soldiers felt, “they were still pretty much totally useless.”

The ratio of U.S. to ANA wounded doesn’t prove the point concerning ANA reliability and viability, but it is yet another data point that confirms the suspicions and fails to change or challenge the model of the ANA as highly problematic as an independent fighting force, or even a reliable embedded fighting force.

Prior:

Investigating the Battle of Wanat

Analysis of the Battle of Wanat

Battle of Wanat Disputed?


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  • crm114

    Is there any amplifying info on exactly what is lacking in their training? This certainly reeks of ARVN stories that I’ve heard.

  • Warbucks

    From the unlearned bowls of my own limited knowledge, my gut suggests these ancient people have no leaders they can love – all of whom seem materially corrupt, no reason to look outside themselves, a transitioning “moral law” of tribalism to nation building which runs against their ancestors, their instincts, and theocratic heritage, leaving them with no confidence in coalition goals.

    It would seem that situations like these require the ancient instructions of Sun Tzu to once again be reviewed step-by-step. Even the notion of developing a smaller army of fierce, dedicated, fearless warriors only 10% the size now in place, but dedicated totally to death of honor in combat and nation building. Then unleash them on the ground while we stand back and supply intelligence and air power, supplies, equipment and replacements. Supply ample resources to take care of the dead and injured soldiers’ families who die in the honor of combat.

    But this is outside my experience. These are just first impressions that come to mind.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Actually, I like the idea of a much smaller force (along with a larger U.S. force for now), better trained, better vetted, better schooled, as opposed to rapidly increasing the size of an already bad ANA. I have a new post coming out on this tonight.

  • crm114

    I agree completely with both of you that a smaller, elite force of ANA and Police would be excellent, I’m also afraid to say that I could wish for a cheeseburger and I’m fairly certain the latter will appear first. As some have been saying for a little while now, the level of tribal-mentality as well as acceptable level of corruption in Afghanistan is far worse than in Iraq. In order to get such a small and “elite” (by elite, BTW, I mean competant) force to exist, you need to either recruite entirely from the cities, which would alienate this force from the tribal areas, or recruit them entirely from refugees in the United States. My only concern in having such small and yet lethal force would be you’d see a military-led coup in ten years or so coming from a force that is heavily-armed and well-led and has a lot of blood on it’s hands from doing a heck of a lot of dirty work. Such a system would, after a time, appear not too dissimilar to Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire.

    Of course all of this is academic in the extreme because such a force shall not exist for many years to come, and most likely never. I do look forward to the other posts coming down the chute, though.


You are currently reading "The Contribution of the Afghan National Army in the Battle of Wanat", entry #3521 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghan National Army,Afghanistan,Battle of Wanat and was published August 4th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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