Just finished reading an account of the Battle of Combat Outpost Keating - The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper.
The book covers the founding of the Combat Outpost through its demolition and abandonment after the October 3, 2009 Battle of Kamdesh, when a force of 300 Taliban insurgents attacked the outpost of 60 Americans of Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment and Two Latvians and a handful of Afghanistan National Army members that almost entirely either ran away or joined the insurgents. Outnumbered 5 to 1, the Americans and Latvians held and defeated the attack.
8 Americans were killed, 27 wounded and over 150 Taliban were killed. The surprise attack was repulsed even after the Taliban managed to overrun a portion of the outpost.
The book points out the folly of the location of the outpost, established to house a Provincial Reconstruction Team - on a mainly unusable road in a valley dominated by three mountains controlled by the insurgents. The book then points out the greater folly of leaving the outpost open after it was decided that the road was not unusable because of its bad condition, and the constant insurgent attacks made it unusable as a PRT base even as soldiers at the base were continually ambushed, wounded or killed. Multiple commanders of the outpost were killed, including one by an IED assassination. Conditions at the base were beyond difficult and the hardships the men faced were grave indeed.
Politics and dithering caused the lack of sufficient troops in Afghanistan for the mission of combatting the insurgents, which is quite fairly pointed out to be the fault of both Bush and then later Obama.
Politics and dithering then compounded to lead to the battle, as the troops of the outpost would have avoided being there at the time of the attack had the closing gone ahead as scheduled, but a series of delays in the closing of the base during the feud between Obama and McChrystal occurred, leaving it vulnerable to attack even after the decision to close it had been made and announced (including to the enemy) but no definitive timetable set due to the political issues.
Interestingly, the book, written in 2012, notes that Bowe Berghdahl walked away from the base he was stationed on in June 2009, after leaving an angry email to his parents, and the efforts to search for him diverted needed helicopters and other assets needed to have shut down the outpost, delaying its closure until after the attack on October 3, 2009.
The book is a gripping read that tells of the amazingly heroic acts of troops stationed at the outpost, including many who won Medals of Honor for their actions at the Base such as Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, killed while on a mission near the outpost and awarded the medal posthumously for his gallantry that day, and Sergeant Clinton Romesha, and Staff Sergeant Ty Carter who earned their Medals of Honor in the Battle of Kamdesh itself. Take the time to read their citations and reflect on their outstanding acts of selflessness and bravery beyond all expectation.
In addition, nine other soldiers earned the Silver Star in the pivotal battle, and eight Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded to the pilots that bravely risked themselves to provide vital air support to help beat back the attack.
Vividly written and detailed, the book is highly recommended for its detailed look at Combat Outpost Keating and its narrative of events from its founding through the Battle of Kamdesh, and its telling of the valor of the troops there whose stories certainly deserve to be read and remembered.