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Weapons Failed US During Afghan Fight

From an outrage feigning Associated Press:

Weapons failed US troops during Afghan firefight

By Richard Lardner, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – It was chaos during the early morning assault last year on a remote U.S. outpost in Afghanistan and Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips’ M4 carbine had quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn’t work either.

When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?

Despite the military’s insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times…

Army Col. Wayne Shanks, a military spokesman in Afghanistan, said a review of the battle at Kamdesh is under way. "It is too early to make any assumptions regarding what did or didn’t work correctly," he said.

Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren’t new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.

The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives…

Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of the Army office that buys soldier gear. Still, the rifle is continually being improved to make it even more reliable and lethal.

Fuller said he’s received no official reports of flawed weapons performance at Wanat. "Until it showed up in the news, I was surprised to hear about all this," he said.

The study by Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., hasn’t been publicly released. Copies of the study have been leaked to news organizations and are circulating on the Internet

One wonders why the Associated Press thought it was timely to bring up a battle from more than a year ago.

Especially after CNN has recently reported that the lesson to be learned from Wanat was that we should not have military outposts.

Even though in the same article they quote Sgt. Mace, who rightly surmises that the problem was:

"He talked about the village next to the base, that it had 300 Taliban, and they couldn’t do anything about it because they were in mosques hiding or with other civilians," says his father, Larry Mace. "They knew they were there and they couldn’t do anything about it and they killed them."

This was also the problem at Wanat, according to the US Army (via Wikipedia):

An investigation by the US Army, completed on August 13 and released to the public the first week of November 2008, found that the Taliban attackers had been assisted by the local Afghan police forces and a district leader. The evidence included large stocks of weapons and ammunition discovered in the police barracks in Wanat after the battle. The stocks were much more than could be used by the villages’ 20-man police force and included dirty weapons which appeared to have been used recently…

The investigation also examined whether the Army had intelligence about a possible assault and whether the troops had access to it. The report found that despite reports earlier in July that 200 to 300 militants had been massing to attack another remote outpost in the vicinity, including numerous reports from local villagers that an attack was imminent, the commanders at Wanat had no reason to expect such a large frontal assault.

The report, however, criticized the “incredible amount of time” — 10 months — it took NATO military leaders to negotiate arrangements over the site of the outpost, giving the Taliban plenty of time to coordinate and plan an attack on the base

Also according to Wikipedia, the ‘US Army historian’ Mr. Cubbison has written earlier reports that did not cite the M4 as the culprit, but rather faulty decisions by senior commanders:

In July 2009, US Senator James Webb asked the US DoD Inspector General to formally examine the battle and the US Army’s investigation into the event. In his request, Webb cited an unreleased report from the army’s Combat Studies Institute by a US Army historian, Douglas Cubbison, that was sharply critical of the way senior Army leaders in Afghanistan, especially Ostlund and Preyser, acted prior to the assault at Wanat. According to that report, soldiers at the Wanat base were critically short of basic necessities such as water and sandbags and had complained repeatedly, to no avail, that their base was in a precarious position. Cubbison had written the report at the request of Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the United States Army Combined Arms Center.

According to Cubbison, a few days before the battle, on July 4, a US Army helicopter mistakenly attacked and killed 17 local Afghan civilians, including all of the Afghan doctors and nurses at a local clinic, infuriating local Afghans throughout the area. In response, platoon commander Brostrom and company commander Matthew Myer notified senior commanders that they were worried that a retaliatory attack was imminent and that extra surveillence was necessary. Rather than bolstering security around Wanat, however, US Army leaders at Bagram air base ordered the withdrawal of all intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets from the area. Brostrom’s father, retired Army Colonel David. P. Brostrom, alerted Webb’s office to the Army historian’s report. Said Brostrom, "After I read the report, I was sick to my stomach." …

Seeing that the despicable James Webb has cited Mr. Cubbison, we wonder about his objectivity.

But the Associated Press isn’t going to pass up any opportunity to throw doubts upon the Afghan mission.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, October 11th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “Weapons Failed US During Afghan Fight”

  1. LewWaters says:

    Obviously, another slap at Bush, since it was an incident from July 2008.

    What I don’t read is what dear leader is doing to correct the situation. Last I heard, he is still wringing his hands and gnashing his teeth waiting on his war committee to make up his mind whether the Troops get the reinforcements requested a month and a half ago or not.

    So much for “I will listen to the Generals.”

    • proreason says:

      That’s what it’s about. It’s misdirection as the boy king puts more heroes’ lives at stake until he can complete his Socialist Health Care cram-down.

  2. Tater Salad says:

    I had the same situation in Vietnam, Marines, 1968 assaulting an NVA held stronghold. The piece of crap M-16 jammed and all I had was a K-Bar which is of little help when someone has an AK-47 rammed up your azz. This article is still off base though. This country has the finest weapons in the world. We should not even use these rifle, machine guns shoulder fired weapons in Afghanistan. Take all rules of engagement OFF of the military and let the generals fight this thing. If not, we will either be there forever (like Vietnam) or we will lose. Use our “advanced weapons or get out now! This country should not be taken down to a small arms warfare machine when we have all this other weaponry at our disposal to use and win.

    • proreason says:

      Tater Tater Tater.

      Using all of our weapons wouldn’t be “fair” to the Taliban.

      And we would win.

  3. canary says:

    Obama broke campaign promise to the troops to make weapons safer, bullet proof vests (one of the first things he did was send millions back to manufactures because they were to heavy or too light), better armour, and
    even MicHello did on interview her 1st lady role would be for the troops
    “lighten their burden”. Senator Inhofe Rep has had to fight hard to get money towards the troops equipment.
    My buddy who is a sniper could not get a drag bag, it stabilizes the scope and keeps the sand out, when taking it on a stakeout (all the soldiers with different type rifle weapons have had this problem, and not enough items to clean their weapons, poor oil for cleaning them, etc. I was able to find one drag bag appropiate (Confer?) at an army surplus store, the new camaflough, lighter weight than the old ones). Gun shows are full of drag bags that are old dark camaflough, too small, and I was told that the military won’t tell the surplus stores what the soldiers need.
    Anyways, I think the vests would have suitable until the new ones were made, but Obama’s army sent them back probably to bankrupt the manufacturers. Obama’s main priority should be for American’s with the least, in horrendous living conditions, to save them from becoming amputees, than worrying about a mild flu, when people die every year from the flu. And it’s the postage that kills family’s to send things for the troops. Two Senators in Florida have been trying for a year to get free USPS mailing for our troops, and so what’s taken so long to do that. Postal employees wouldn’t be getting the boot like they are. And it’s a darn shame, because food items are heavy, and MicHello is to busy in her WH plantation slaving children in human waste sludge. I hope Obama chokes on a tator tot.

  4. crosspatch says:

    I am skeptical of this report. As much fighting as those weapons have seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, if there was some generic fault with them, it would have been widely reported before now. I don’t recall hearing of these problems during the battles in Fallujah or the ongoing fighting (for many months) in Ramadi or the initial battles in Afghanistan or Iraq. Why is this reported problem with the weapon only coming out now?

    Something is seriously fishy about that report.

  5. Rusty Shackleford says:

    “…head of the Army office that buys soldier gear”

    Dude, like is that like, guns n’ stuff? Shaa.

    I love it when newsies try to get technical…or even if they don’t. Like when Dan Rather referred to the engines on the F-15E in Gulf War 1 as having “thrusterboosters”. The correct term is afterburner and the Brits used to call them reheaters but have adopted the US vernacular.

    Incidentally, it was the news reporting on things that I knew a lot about that caused me to question their entire credibility years ago. And it wasn’t just details. When they talked about aviation, they actually made use of myths and incorrect general information.

    Once I noticed that, the MSM was dead to me.

  6. BillK says:

    We don’t need weapons if we simply negotiate with the Taliban.

    You all are missing His Nobel Peace Prize™-winning strategy here.

    Meanwhile, I wonder how many of those jams are due to either:

    1) Failure to keep the weapons clean, and perhaps on a related note:
    2) Sand and other grit getting into the actions of the weapons

    The sad truth is most of our weapons systems were designed to fight in “european” conditions rather than in either:

    1) Jungles
    2) Deserts

  7. canary says:

    I’ve repeatedly been told the sand, poor quality oil. They don’t have drag bags. One friend of mine was putting a sock on his scope. Aside the one friend I sent the drag bag for his scope, I sent some less expensive bags, but put camaflough material, and velcrose strips so they could be ripped off quickly, instead of having to unzip, and this way it lessens the sand problem and cleaning. Those barber brushes, or like make-up brushes can help dust them a bit, and those rags that micro pick up dust and all. Plus, if they break their eyeglasses, they have to weight forever to get military issued ones in. It’s disgusting in such modern times, that we don’t get more to our soldiers. Many of these soldiers don’t have family, or family can’t afford the postal costs. I guess the government doesn’t do anything about it, because they don’t want people to think our troops are needing. Several have told me no toilet paper. If you know someone over there, see what they might need. Last Christmas The USPS now has these this new flat rate boxes. Best deal is the largest box. So, you cram heavy stuff like batteries, extra knives, stuff like that. Cold weather is coming. Send sand colored blankets cause my buddy told me they make good back drops to hold up, when they raid a house.

  8. canary says:

    AP: Military: Improved body armor is too heavy
    By Richard Lardner – Feb 6 2009

    WASHINGTON — Concerned that U.S. troops are already saddled with too much heavy gear, military officials will not require them to wear improved body armor until manufacturers cut the weight of the new protective plates.

    The Army plans to buy 120,000 sets of the advanced bullet-blocking plates this year. This initial purchase of the plates, known as “XSAPI,” will be stocked in Kuwait and be available if commanders need them, service officials said at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

    The quality of small numbers of the current plates, called “ESAPI,” was questioned last week in an audit by the Defense Department inspector general’s office. The audit said the ESAPI plates from one body armor manufacturer — Armor Works of Chandler, Ariz. — were tested improperly and may not provide troops adequate protection.

    ~~The Army disputed the conclusion. ESAPI is the best body armor available and a lifesaver in Iraq and Afghanistan, service officials insisted.

    ~~netheless, as a precautionary step the Army decided to withdraw nearly 33,000 Armor Works plates in question from an

    ESAPI inventory of about 2 million produced by nearly a dozen different companies.

    But making the roughly 6-pound XSAPI any lighter is harder than it sounds. The plate has to be thick enough to defeat new and more potent bullets finding their way onto the battlefield, says Joel Moskowitz of Ceradyne in Costa Mesa, Calif., one of the companies making XSAPI.

    The Army’s testing methods were backed by the Pentagon’s director of operational testing,
    an independent office that assesses how gear performs.

    But in an action separate from the ESAPI armor recall, the Army in December voluntarily withdrew just over 8,000 plates because of testing gaps. Those plates were made by Armor Works and other manufacturers, including Ceradyne.

    Contracts potentially worth $6 billion for XSAPI and ESAPI plates were awarded in October 2008 to Ceradyne, BAE Systems of Phoenix, and The Protective Group of Miami Lakes, Fla.

    ~~~`The work was put on hold after BAE filed a protest over the manufacturing schedule.


    My opinion, a light vest that can stop a bullet or shrapnel from full entry is better than none, and soldiers should make the call.

    I think we could save a fortune if Obama just war some armor and a helmet, since he’s so active going to photo ops, nearly weekly, often daily meetings with that gay organization. He sure was zealous in Saturday nights speech. Obama has sooo much empathy and relates so well.

  9. rakkasan says:

    God bless our troops.

    That being said, with the intensity of that particular (recent) engagement there will be weapons failure. To question the support given to them is one thing (they were evacuating the outpost anyway and that is when the Taliban hit). The weapons themselves are fine – except at that intensity. They would not have had that problem if they had proper support, which they will in the future. Truth is lessons-learned in one war get lost in the next. They had to re-learn it the hard way, and it won’t happen again. Twelve magazines in thirty minutes is a lot. A lot. There is no engineering problem with the M16 series (other than the one first introduced in Vietnam – which they fixed right away with the M16A1 in 1967). You can talk about the knock-down power of the 5.56 v. something heavier, but that is not what the incident was about. Again, God bless the troops that used the M16 original before 1967. Sometimes weapons don’t get the flaws out until it is too late. The F-22 just had electronics upgrades because the moisture in Guam is a lot higher than other places it has been. Thankfully we found that out before a war with the F-22.

    In conclusion, the AP / WaPo / NYT needs to hire a vet for their reporting for something called “context”.

    One last rant. It is very upsetting to me about the ISAF jokes I read. ISAF means International Security Assistance Force, which is what most of the foreign troops in Afghanistan are under. The Germans joked that it meant “I Saw Americans Fight” back when they were behind the wire and unable to go out. The German government changed that a few months ago, thankfully, and now our German allies are in the fight as well. Lately, though, Americans have been calling ISAF “I Suck At Fighting” or “I Support Afghan Farmers”. It isn’t that morale is dropping because we are “losing”. Morale is dropping because the Rules of Engagement changed because of Captain Thin Resume and now we can’t blow up buildings where the enemy is shooting from. We have to *see* the enemy in the window pulling the trigger before we can hit it with something bigger.

    Morale drop is because of Captain Thin Resume and his Nobel Peace Prize attitude toward our Rules of Engagement. I get that he is scared of people with guns. I get it, and don’t mind. He is a “community organizer”, which means he likes to spend taxpayer money on feel-good initiatives. However, he needs to get past that and become Commander-in-Chief. Right now, he is just President. I hope he figures it out.

    I don’t post much anymore, but I read twice a day. Keep it up, Steve. You are making a difference.

  10. calmjoe says:

    to the person who wrote that report..

    I am far from thinking that America is not making any progress in Afghanistan…
    reports of failure are just tactics to perpetuate our presence…

    in fact, the war is spreading to the region surrounding it… take a look at this


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