The U.S. military blamed "shortcomings in command oversight" and delays in closing a remote outpost in northeastern Afghanistan for an October ambush that left eight Americans dead, according to a report released Friday.
The Oct. 3 gunbattle that broke out when hundreds of insurgents stormed the base with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and guns in mountainous Nuristan province near the Pakistan border was one of the worst ground attacks of the war.
An investigation found the soldiers "heroically repelled a complex attack from an enemy force of 300" after calling in air support. When the fighting was over, about 150 insurgents were dead but so were eight Americans and three Afghan soldiers.
A report released by the U.S. military in Afghanistan recommended administrative actions "to address shortcomings in command oversight" that contributed to the attack.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander, also has taken appropriate action regarding Army personnel involved and issued guidance to commanders and noncommissioned officers at all levels to try to prevent similar attacks in the future.
The command did not identify those involved or specify any punitive measures, citing privacy laws.
The report said critical intelligence and other assets had been diverted to assist combat operations in other areas and necessary improvements for force protection were not made because the outpost was due to be closed.
"There were inadequate measures taken by the chain of command, resulting in an attractive target for enemy fighters," according to executive summary of the report.
Insurgents had been able to conduct numerous probing attacks to learn the U.S. force's tactics and procedures as well as the location of weapons systems, barracks and other key infrastructure, it said.
Militants had launched about 47 attacks during the five months that the B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry, had been deployed at the outpost in Nuristan's Kamdesh district — three times the rate experienced by the previous unit.
The attack underscored the vulnerability of the outposts that are manned by NATO and Afghan forces away from the heavily fortified bases where most of the troops live.
Many of the small bases have been abandoned as part of McChrystal's new strategy to redirect forces to focus on more populated areas to protect civilians and blunt the influence of the Taliban.
According to the report, Combat Outpost Keating had been scheduled for closure in July or August 2009 but was delayed when the assets needed to ferry supplies were diverted to support intense Afghan operations under way in another area.
It added that other intelligence assets were used for the ongoing operation and the search for a missing U.S. soldier in the south.
The U.S. subsequently withdrew from the outpost and destroyed what remained of the camp on Oct. 6 to prevent enemy use, the report said.
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