During the United States Army invasión of Afghanistan during a war against terror, which was conducted following recent rampant terrorist activities, the battle of the COP Keating, also known as the battle of Kamdesh, took place most decisively in the attack and the destruction of twin towers in the American city in New York on Tuesday, 11 September 2001, leading to several civilian deaths. The war is said to be America’s bloodiest battle following the battle of Wanat in July 2008, just 32 km from Kamdesh also when the US invaded Afghanistan.
On 3 October 2009, COP Keating battled in Kamdesh, Nuristan, East Afghanistan province (AR 15-6 investigation: a difficult assault on COP Keating-3 Oct 07 was a near 12-hour fight against the Taliban insurgents, the two lettuce coaches and the Afghan alliance troops, against the insurgents of the Taliban. At the time of the attack, approximately 60 Bravo Troop cavalries, the 3rd Squadron, the 61st Cavalry Regi (Sanders, 122). At the end of the fighting 8 U.S. troops had died and 22 remained injured. Eight Afghan soldiers and two Afghan private security guards were also wounded. A military body count confirmed that about 150 to 200 Taliban insurgents died during the day’s firefight.
Justin T. Gallegos (Tucson, Arizona), Christopher Griffin (Kincheloe, Michigan), Kevin C. Thomson (Reno, Nevada), Michael P. Kirk (Villas, New Jersey), Joshua J. Kirk (Southern Portland, Maine) and Joshua M. Hardtin, Christophe Griffin (Kincheloe, Michigan), Kevin L. Mase (Lovettsville, Virginia) were the soldiers who sacrificed their life during the war (Applegate, California). Another 10 Afghan troops and 4 Taliban militants were killed during the COP Keating Militia Alliance operations on October 3, 5 and 6.
Initially, a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) base was planned to be the PRT Kamdesh, recently called Camp Keating after the death of First Lieutenant Ben Keating, who died while carrying a blinded supply track into the Naray FOB, a strategic position to reduce and avoid the supply of arms to the Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM). The camp, however, proved very difficult to protect in the event of an assault, as it was wild in the region.
The threatening vulnerability and insufficiency of the area for a military camp in an area as violent as Camp Keating has led to many factors. These ultimately contributed to the US military’s rationale and subsequent plans to relocate the region into more settled parts of Afghanistan in order to provide better security and safety for local civilians.
The Fighting Outpost (COP) Keating is situated in a gorge, flanked by mountains on all directions and by a river on one side. It appears like a pipe, which greatly decreases the probability of effective protection against attack. The region is often characterised by rugged terrain with sharp rocks and road travel is vulnerable to assault by insurgents. Ukraine’s road contractors in Afghanistan have struggled to maintain the area’s infrastructure, which sadly triggered the death of Lieutenant Ben Keating. In addition to the insufficiency of the environment for every aircraft landing, all air reactions and assistance during attacks were limited, if not late. It has been reported that whilst attempting to land in the area murdering all its occupants, a military chopper has previously smashed the planet. A landing pad was selected on the other side of the mountain, significantly away from the camp in the case of assaults and emergencies.
The Nuristan province is prone to harsh weather and as added in Executive summary the resident population is hostile toward inhabitation and invasion from any outside force. However, the American military sought to endear the population towards their noble cause and counter their negative suspicion of outsiders with good acts as they attempted to separate the enemy from the people, link the people to their governments and transform the Afghanistan by economic development and creation of a national infrastructure. These maneuvers were met however, with assassinations and warnings to those who attempted to collaborate with the American Forces at a time of “holy war”.
The little soldier allocation in this remote rugged area made matters even graver as many troops were deployed in populated areas for civilian security reasons. Warnings and rumors of a planned attack on the combat outpost came in large but were ignored. The insurgents would occasionally wage small fire fights from time to time which were all successfully repelled by the American forces. As more frequent small attacks came, the notion of a larger, much more organized attack was disregarded and ignored. It is said however, as stated in Woods Stuart’s Loitering with Intent that these small prior attacks were mere means the insurgents used to gauge the attack response of the Americans as they planned a mother of all onslaughts.
Owing to these disadvantages and risks, the COP was eventually decided to hold no meaningful strategic or tactical value and was hence scheduled for closure. Initially, the COP was determined for closure somewhere around July-August 2009 but plans were delayed for action till mid-October since base supplies were diverted to support intense brigade-level operations in Barge-e Matal in support of ANSF forces. This inevitable intended closure therefore, also, ensured there was no need for any further security reinforcements and fortifications beyond bare minimum in the COP Keating.
And finally on October 3rd 2009, at around 3 a.m., the locals of Kamdesh village were woken up and ordered to leave the area and at a few minutes to 6 a.m., the Taliban insurgents, close to 350 in number, attacked the COP Keating. With their superior number and an added advantage from firing from the hills all around gave them an upper hand. The Americans were taken by surprise by a different type of militia that was highly trained. In the ranks of the attackers were a number of insurgents that had previously been trained by the CIA to fight the Soviets. 48 minutes into the firefight, the Cop had been overrun (Woods 56).
The insurgents came in with heavy bombardments from all sides of the outpost from B-10s, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, Russian-made Dushkas, mortars, snipers and small firearms. The attackers knew their targets well and disabled American mortars instantly, while also simultaneously attacking a nearby outpost Fritsche disabling any means of air support from the area. Latvian operatives and American fighter during the war claimed the Afghan forces were overwhelmed by fire attack from the insurgents and abandoned their positions against command thus allowing the insurgents to gain entry into the compound from these positions. Once in the camp, the insurgents torched most of the barracks as the American troops, pressed in, fought back valiantly in attempts to regain control of the outpost.
As the day progressed, Sgt. Armando Avalos and Sgt. Jayson Souter with their teams in attack helicopters destroyed a nearby mosque where the heaviest fire originated. As Sgt. Avalos started directing indirect assistance to retake COP Keating, OP Fitsche soldiers reclaimed possession of their mortars. At about 5 p.m., the rebels finally began withdrawing. But the immediate response units from the 32nd Infantry Regiment’s 1st Division did not arrive until 7 p.m. As the area was evacuated by the Americans. American choppers later bombed the place to avoid any further looting of ammunition and war arms.
Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha is remembered for his bravery, according to Jake Tapper, during the battle and has since received a medal of honor, the highest award for military service. With the battle of COP Keating generating a multitude of awards, Sgt. Ty Carter was also nominated for a badge of honour: 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals with ‘V’ devices for valour, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars with ‘V’ devices and 9 Silver Stars (Tapper, 75).
- Sanders, C. Executive summary: AR 15-6 investigation re: complex attack on COP Keating–3 Oct 09. S.l. U.S. Central Command, 2010. Print.
- Tapper, Jake. The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. S.l.: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Print.
- Woods, Stuart. Loitering with Intent 16. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. Print.