Ganjgal Ambush Congressional Probe

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

From the Marine Corps Times:

A member of the House Armed Services Committee is calling for the Army to divulge what punishment three officers received for failing to respond adequately to an ambush in Afghanistan that killed five U.S. troops.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., asked Army Secretary John McHugh to explain the “consequences” the Army officers faced following a joint Army-Marine investigation of the Sept. 8, 2009, ambush near the village of Ganjgal, he said in an interview with Marine Corps Times.

Army Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, a spokesman for McHugh, declined to comment on what punishment was delivered, but said the Army planned to respond to Jones’ inquiry.

“Clearly, the deaths at Ganjgal were tragic,” she said. “But as is standard practice in the Army, we apply the lessons learned from all reviews and investigations … to prevent repeating mistakes of the past.”

The attack occurred as 13 U.S. military trainers and about 80 Afghan security forces made an early-morning trip to the remote village in Kunar province to meet with village elders.

Three Marines and a Navy corpsman were found shot to death and stripped of their gear and weapons in a ditch after being pinned down for hours, without air and artillery support, by more than 100 insurgents wielding rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, according to witness statements obtained by Marine Corps Times. A U.S. soldier wounded in the ambush died the following month at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

“I believe that they are seriously looking into the facts as to what happened during that fight,” said Jones, who served in Congress with McHugh, a former New York representative. “I have a great respect for Secretary McHugh, and I believe he will get to the bottom of it, and once a decision is made … he will release his findings.”

Two investigations were launched following the Ganjgal attack. The first was headed by an Army major in the first days after the attack. The second, in November, focused primarily on command-post failure, and was overseen by Army Col. Richard Hooker and Marine Col. James Werth, military officials said. The colonels found that there was a failure of leadership in the operations center, and that the troops on the ground were promised air and artillery support before the mission if it became necessary.

The investigating colonels recommended that three Army officers — likely captains or majors — receive letters of reprimand for failing to provide adequate support from a nearby operations center at Forward Operating Base Joyce. The officers were part of Task Force Chosin, an Army unit comprising soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

… the reprimands (Editorial Note: For the Wanat engagement, not Ganjgal) were rescinded in June by retiring Gen. Charles Campbell, who commanded U.S. Army Forces Command, out of Fort McPherson, Ga. He shared his decision with the families of the dead soldiers June 23, and the meeting ended abruptly when several of them walked out angrily, family members told Army Times.

Regular readers know my position on this ambush.  I had predicted that no investigation would find that General McChrystal’s tactical directive and associated guidance played a role in the lack of fire support during the engagement.  I had (correctly) predicted that the field grade officers involved in this incident should watch their six.  I also don’t see much value to the AR 15-6 investigation into the ambush.

But I maintain one fact.  McChrystal’s rules of engagement was directly responsible for three Marines and one Navy Corpsman perishing that fateful day.  Their blood is on his hands.

The Marine Corps Times has apparently obtained witness statements, and I have requested them but have not yet received any word concerning the statements.  The next step will be a contact to Representative Walter Jones.  We’ll eventually have full disclosure on the circumstances surrounding these deaths.


Taliban Ambush in Eastern Kunar Kills Four U.S. Marines

More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement

AR 15-6 Investigation of Marine Deaths in Kunar Province

  • davod

    The response to this attack reads like the response to to the attack on the Aussie platoon.

  • Brian

    Sir, you have quoted the Marine Times article in such a way as to make it seem like the reprimands were rescinded for the Ganjgal Ambush (last paragraph), when the Marine Times article makes it clear those reprimands were for the Battle of Wanat.

  • Herschel Smith


    Upon re-reading the paragraphs I cited, you’re absolutely correct in your critique of my editing from last night. I have added a brief editorial note.

    As you can tell from my coverage of Wanat:

    I know all about that engagement, and that the reprimands were rescinded. I was clear to me, but wouldn’t have been to my readers based on my poor job of editing.

    I edit out paragraphs because, usually, I have readers for maybe 2.5 minutes, and besides, it is bad form simply to copy entire articles into posts without sending traffic to the site of the original source. So I usually copy partial articles. It’s always a hard decision how to do that.

  • Brian

    Thank you for the addition of the note. The reporting done on these two events (along with the Battle of COP Keating) are already full of inaccuracies and need no further fuel on their respective fires. Did you know that the first artillery round landed within 6 minutes of the attack at Wanat?

  • Herschel Smith

    Well, and CAS wasn’t that far behind. I have a calculation of time to CAS from information in my first one or two posts on Wanat.

    My focus on Wanat had to do mainly with (1) force projection, including the size of the unit, (2) choice of terrain, and (3) the liability that OP Top Side was to the effort.

    As for Ganjgal, it seems clearer to me based on the fact that white phosphorus rounds were delivered that the support was there, but no one would agree to sending explosive ordnance. They weren’t all out at the gym or smoking cigars. They were at their posts and made a conscious decision not to support them with what was needed. I think the AR 15-6 was a whitewash, but you can read my writeup for yourself. Until someone sends me information that demonstrates me wrong (at which point I will relinquish my views), I stand by what I have said.

    I have a lot of information on Wanat, and only some on Ganjgal. If you have any about either please feel free to send it my way.

  • Brian

    Cool, just tough to watch the news reports of some of these events where the reporters aren’t even close to the truth or have an agenda to push. I tried to send you a message through your contact form this morning but it popped an error. Please shoot me an email, I think I might be able to help with some information.

  • DirtyMick

    Herschel, I think this deserves your opinion:

    I had gotten up there a couple months after this happened. They should have never should of been denied help

You are currently reading "Ganjgal Ambush Congressional Probe", entry #5707 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Kunar Province,Marine Corps and was published November 2nd, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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