Is the US Army still competent in real combat? "In recent months, the battle of Wanat has come to symbolize the U.S. military's missteps in Afghanistan. It has provoked Brostrom's father to question why Jonathan died and whether senior Army officers -- including a former colleague and close friend -- made careless mistakes that left the platoon vulnerable. It has triggered three investigations, the latest initiated last week by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And it has helped drive a broader reassessment of war strategy among top commanders in Afghanistan, who have begun to pull U.S. troops out of remote villages where some of the heaviest fighting has occurred. Senior military leaders have concluded that they lack the forces to wrest these Taliban strongholds away from the enemy and are instead focusing on more populated and less violent areas." Jaffe ------------------------------------------------------------------- Greg Jaffe is a great combat reporter. I don't know him but wish I did. He has another story today in the Washington Post about what happened at Outpost Keating and the aftermath of that fight in which eight American soldiers died. Those who follow this blog know that I have increasing;y been concerned over the planning and conduct of a number of small Afghanistan battles in which it seem to me that my beloved Army has neither planned nor fought well. Not the men, not the men, the officers. Over the last several days I have watched Sebastian Junger push his new book. He spent a lot of time on another outpost with an understrength platoon of infantry. At that place the troops were sent up a mountain to secure and build their own little fortlet. They did that, under fire the while and then lived there for a month at a time with inadequate fire support, no hot food, no way to keep clean and nothing to do except fight all day against Afghans who would surely kill them all if the smallest error occurred. Is this my Army? In my Army (Vietnam), a battalion of infantry would have occupied the area while engineers built a solidly entrenched post, heavily fortified and wired in behind several barbed wire fences with mines laid between fences, fougasse and a lot of pre-planned mortar and artillery fire registered. Air support? Don't make me laugh. They are great when they show up. Once all that was done, then the platoon would have been given their little post to defend. Then the post would have been re-supplied or reinforced at night by helicopter. There would have been clean clothes every few days, hot chow brought in Mermite cans, replacement weapons, etc. Instead, men are left to rot in their clothes, clinging to each other, essentially abandoned by the Army. What has caused this loss of competence in officers who are responsible for such failings? Is it a failure to train for real fighting because von Rumsfeld did not understand ground warfare? Is it the COIN obsession that distracts officers from the planning tasks that are needed to care for their men. A price will be paid for these officer failures. The troops will always forgive necessary deaths. They do not forgive when their comrades' lives are uselessly thrown away.