Report Reveals US Air Force Has Killed More Americans than ISIS
September 7, 2014
Robert Burns / Associated Press
A "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan that killed five US soldiers and one Afghan was caused by a series of "avoidable miscommunications" among air and ground forces, according to a military investigation report released three months after the deadly June 6 attack.
New Report Reveals the Pentagon
Has Murdered More Americans than ISIS
What do you call it when a B-1 launches bombs from two miles above the Earth?
"Close ground support."
What do you call potential targets on the ground, if you can't positively identify them?
What do you call it when two laser-guided bombs are used to kill five American soldiers?
After a thorough investigation, who do you determine was at fault?
The victims. Because they didn't know the bomber couldn't detect their "friendly marking devices."
What is the Pentagon's response to this "avoidable" tragedy?
Central Command "is considering whether any tactics should be changed."
All questions aside, this fact remains:
As of today, the Pentagon has killed more Americans than ISIS.
-- Gar Smith / The Edge
Mistaken US Bombing Blamed on Miscommunication
Robert Burns / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (September 4, 2014) -- A "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan that killed five US soldiers and one Afghan in June was caused by a series of avoidable miscommunications among air and ground forces, according to a military investigation report released Thursday.
The report from US Central Command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan, cited a collective failure by soldiers, commanders and aircrew members to execute the fundamentals of the mission. As a result, the five Americans and one Afghan were mistaken for enemy forces and were attacked with two laser-guided bombs.
Many details of the report were blacked out before its public release.
The incident was one of the deadliest friendly fire episodes of the entire war, which began 13 years ago next month.
The crew of the Air Force B-1 bomber were executing an authorized order, but they were faulted by investigators for not taking reasonable precautions to ensure they knew where friendly forces were located. Despite discrepancies in reported US troop locations -- suggesting that something may have been amiss -- the air crew did not take necessary steps to validate its information before launching the bombs, the report said.
Unidentified members of the ground forces, which included an Army Special Forces unit, were faulted for incorrectly communicating some troops' positions and for not knowing that the B-1 bomber's targeting gear is incapable of detecting friendly marking devices of the type used by US ground forces in the June 9 operation. These failures led to the mistaken conclusion that the targeted US and Afghan soldiers were insurgents.
In response to the Central Command report, the Army said it is considering whether any tactics should be changed to minimize chances of repeating mistakes that led to this tragedy. It also forwarded the investigation report to the commander of Army Special Operations Command to decide whether any punitive action should be taken.
The Air Force said it would study the report before deciding on any disciplinary action.
The June incident happened in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan at the end of an operation led by the Afghan army and supported by Army Special Forces. Their aim was to disrupt insurgents and improve security for local polling stations in the Arghandab district in advance of the June 14 Afghan presidential runoff election.
From an altitude of about 12,000 feet, the B-1 bomber was providing what the military calls close air support while US and Afghan ground troops were moving out of the area at the conclusion of their operation.
The six soldiers who were killed had moved from their group's main position in a valley to higher ground on a ridgeline in order to maneuver on insurgent forces. Muzzle flashes seen at their position on the ridgeline were mistaken for signs of rifle fire from insurgents, in part because the movement of the six was not properly communicated to those coordinating with the B-1 crew. And when the B-1 crew said their targeting pods had detected no US marking devices at that location it was decided that targets must by insurgents.
"While this complex combat situation presented a challenging set of circumstances, had the team understood their system's capabilities, executed standard tactics, techniques and procedures and communicated effectively, this tragic incident was avoidable," the partially censored report concluded.
The five Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Jason A. McDonald, 28, of Butler, Georgia; Staff Sgt. Scott R. Studenmund, 24, of Pasadena, California; Spc. Justin R. Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio; Cpl. Justin R. Clouse, 22, of Sprague, Washington, and Pvt. Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Illinois.
The Afghan killed in the attack was identified by Central Command as Sgt. Gulbuddin Ghulam Sakhi.
The tragedy was an example of how battlefield mistakes caused by confusion or miscalculations can have profound consequences. Friendly fire is a problem as old as warfare, and although technological advances, training and combat experience haven lessened the frequency, it still poses a threat to US and allied forces.
"War is a very human endeavor, and mistakes inevitably will occur," retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, an Iraq war veteran and now professor of military history at Ohio State University, said after the June incident.
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