PME Resources

The Battle of Wanat (9 US KIA, 27 US WIA), Afghanistan

By Tom McDermott August 7, 2020

Our first submission from a Cove User! With thanks to JTCOIC for the great simulation.

The Battle of Wanat took place in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan in 2008. Chosen Company from 2/503rd Infantry Regiment of the US Army were occupying the area as part of the ISAF Counterinsurgency Strategy.

Formed as Taskforce Rock, the Battalion originally had 14 x platoon sized bases around their AO as part of a 'Separate, Stabilise, Engage' approach. As they approached the end of their 14 month tour, they elected to consolidate one of these bases into the village of Wanat.

Soon after the patrol base was established in Wanat, the platoon suffered an intense, complex attack from 150 insurgents. It is believed that, in the months prior to the attack, the insurgents had entirely infiltrated the local police force, and had coerced full support from the local population.

This 30 minute simulation from the US Army tells the full story of the attack on Wanat. At the end of the engagement, 9 American soldiers would be dead and 27 wounded.

Watch the video and then seek to answer the following questions:


For Battlegroup Comds / Staffs:

  • What do you think of the overall plan for the region? Does it meet the ideas outlined in the 2013 version of US COIN Doctrine? What about in Australian COIN Doctrine?
  • Did the consolidation of Wanat need to happen? What other options were available?
  • Was the platoon in Wanat sufficiently resourced for the task? What logistical issues did they face, and could they have been overcome?
  • How influential were the relationships between the coalition forces and the local population / security forces? Was enough deduced from the declining situation?
  • How useful would Australian Army Doctrine (LWD 3-0-3 Land Tactics) in supporting an operation like this?
  • What would have been the long term implications for the Task Force after Wanat?

For Company Staffs:

  • If you had been given the task of relocating the patrol base to Wanat, what planning considerations would you have conducted?
  • How thorough was the enemy analysis conducted at Company level? Did they make enough of the atmospherics? What else might have been done, and what additional assets might have been requested?
  • How concerned would you have been with the planned operation, particularly after 14 months operating in the region?
  • What support / backbriefing would you have expected from the Platoon Commander for the operation in Wanat?
  • How useful would Australian Army Doctrine (LWD 3-0-3 Land Tactics) have been in planning an operation like this? (It can be found on ForceNet by clicking the following link. You can set up a ForceNet account in a few quick and easy steps if you don't already have one)

For Platoon Staffs:

  • How worried would you have been about the Wanat operation?
  • How thorough was the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Planning conducted by the Platoon? Would you have been content with the sensor laydown? Was OP TOPSIDE in the right place, given the ground?
  • What planning would you have conducted at Platoon level before the operation, and how would you have briefed the detail?
  • Would you say there was a stage of the operation where it became unviable, and should have been withdrawn?
  • Could the ANSF have been used to more effect, either before or during the operations?
  • What CONPLANs / logistical plans / CASEVAC plans would you have needed to have in place prior to the operation? How would you have regenerated the Company (physically and spiritually) afterwards?

For Sections / Individual soldiers:

  • What would you have been thinking about prior to the conduct of the operation?
  • What would have been your reaction to the first salvos of RPG and rifle fire?
  • How might you have rebalanced when you lost your heavy weapons?
  • What support could you call for?
  • How would you have dealt with a mass casualty situation like the one at Wanat?
  • How would you have pulled the section back together afterwards?

Please let us know any comments you have on this 'Case Method'.



Tom McDermott

Tom McDermott is a serving Australian Army Officer and a student of strategy and military ethics. You can follow him on Twitter via the handle @helmandproject.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Interesting case study with a candid commentary. I wonder whether we would have had a more risk adverse approach that would not have allowed the conditions to be set for this.

Firstly, what an asset this page/particular case method is and how lucky we are to be able to utilise it. As far as ideas go for the actual strategy of the area, I don't think there was much more that you could do or plan do as a commander and the idea of Separate, Stabilise, Engage suited the particular topography well. However the question should be raised of how much ISR there was of the area prior to the constriction of the COB and if this could perhaps of lead to a better outcome? Had there been more reconnaissance of the area, perhaps more intel on its geography (both social and physical) then there might have been less of situation arise for the position, so early on into it's construction. Again though, fantastic asset, I shall be referring to my peers!

An excellent interview with MOH winner SSG Ryan Pitts here: Best parts: - Recovering ammo from a friend - Invitation to the Apache pilots - Relationships with other families Will also post on your Twitter.

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