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New inquiry ordered into 2008 Afghan battle


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POSTED: Thursday, October 01, 2009

WASHINGTON » A top U.S. military commander has ordered a new investigation of a 2008 firefight in Afghanistan that killed nine American soldiers, including one from Hawaii, and led to allegations of negligence by their senior commanders.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the U.S. Central Command, has appointed Richard Natonski, a Marine Corps lieutenant general, to handle the inquiry, Central Command announced yesterday. New issues have arisen since an official Army investigation into the battle was completed more than a year ago, the command said, but it would not say what those issues were.

First Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Aiea, was among the soldiers killed when their remote outpost was attacked by an estimated 200 Taliban fighters. More than two dozen soldiers were wounded during the battle on July 13, 2008.

Family members have said the Army's investigation was inadequate.

; “;When you have an entire infantry platoon basically rendered combat-ineffective, surprised by 200 insurgents, something just doesn't sit right,”; said David Brostrom, a retired Army colonel and father of Jonathan.

In a July 9 letter, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., asked the Pentagon inspector general for an independent review of “;the actions taken at each level of the chain of command”; during what has become known as the Battle of Wanat, involving a platoon from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

In the letter, Webb cited information from David Brostrom and a study of the battle by the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that counters the Army's initial finding that there was no fault by senior commanders.

According to Webb, the platoon leader on the scene was required to establish his combat outpost at a site selected by his higher-level commanders instead of a location based on his own judgment.

“;There is evidence the site was chosen for political reasons following protracted (10-month) negotiations with local Afghan leaders,”; Webb wrote.

When the platoon was ordered to Wanat, a small village in northeastern Afghanistan, an ongoing transfer of brigade-size units may have distracted commanders from a “;rapidly evolving insurgent threat”; under way in the area, Webb said.