According to sources quoted today by McClatchy newspapers, two field commanders warned Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal repeatedly about a worthless Afghanistan outpost that was too costly to defend.
The field commanders are now facing penalties after two high-level military investigations.
Once McChrystal decided to keep open an outpost at Barg-e Matal, top US commanders in eastern Afghanistan delayed plans to close another remote outpost, Combat Outpost Keating. In an assault on October 3, 2009 insurgents killed eight U.S. troops there.
A third isolated base left its command to lower-ranking officers whose "ineffective actions" led "directly" to the deaths of five American and eight Afghan soldiers in a different ambush September 8, 2009.
The attack on Combat Outpost Keating brought the worst single American combat loss of 2009. However, Barg-e Matal making other operations more vulnerable was not mentioned by two recent Army probes.
McClatchy reports that two American defense officials and a former NATO official are now saying McChrystal was warned repeatedly to close Barg-e Matal by the commanders and other US officials. The sources requested anonymity to avoid retaliation.
They allege McChrystal and other Army officials should be held accountable, and that the decision to keep the outpost open was made "because of the political ramifications."
Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for Gen. McChrystal said his boss ordered American troops to remain in Barg-e Matal to prevent it from falling to insurgents while a local militia was being trained there.
"We responded to a request by the government of Afghanistan to support nascent security forces that had come under direct and sustained insurgent pressure and were jeopardizing governance and the people in the area," Smith wrote.
Col. Randy George and Lt. Col. Robert B. Brown, who received administrative penalties, could not be reached for comment by McClatchy.
According to McClatchy:
George, the American commander in four Afghan provinces that border Pakistan, has received a letter of admonishment; Brown, whose operational area included Keating and Barg-e Matal, has received an official reprimand.
The admonishment, which is a minor penalty, is unlikely to affect George's career, but the official reprimand could end Brown's career.
"They are screwing these two guys," the first U.S. defense official said of the field commanders.
"They were looking for heads," the second American defense official said. "It's a travesty."
This audio is from McClatchy, broadcast Feb. 21, 2010.