What battle?

Back to the battle in Nuristan’s Doab district. Fresh details have emerged that seem to contradict ISAF’s public version of the battle, which took place in May this year.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday strongly suggests that the fight between US forces and insurgents for control of the district centre was far more violent than ISAF initially let on.

ISAF told me in June that there was no evidence to suggest that insurgents had reached the district centre or, needless to say, had the insurgents ever controlled the district centre. However, an American major general quoted in the CSM piece says:

At the end of the day, the insurgents held the district center for 24 hours…

The Americans dropped 14 bombs on insurgent positions, killing 200 of the 300 fighters, according to an F-15 fighter pilot interviewed for the same article. American forces on the ground were surrounded and outnumbered about 10-1, the article states.

The F-15 fighter pilot said:

It’s extremely rare that we find ourselves in a fight where we deploy all of our bombs. But that day we dropped everything we had….Our guys got really close to being overrun.

Sounds slightly more violent than the sanitised account provided in the ISAF press release about the battle. I’ve highlighted the bits in bold that are at odds with the Air Force and Army commanders’ accounts.

KABUL, Afghanistan (May 25) – Afghan and coalition forces air assaulted into Do-ab district, Nuristan province today to assess insurgent activity.

There have been many claims the district was overrun today. However, the Afghan National Police post commander for the district center said his post was not overrun by insurgents. The combined force will continue to assess insurgent activity in the area.

The combined force came under small arms fire upon landing from an unknown number of insurgents. The combined force returned fire and called for close air support, suppressing the enemy fire and killing more than 10 insurgents.

Initial reporting from the combined force engagement indicates there was no damage to property and no civilians injured.

“We have seen the insurgent claims in the media. Our Afghan and coalition forces are on the ground. There is some fighting however no indication at this time the district was ever overrun. The ground force commander continues to develop the situation on the ground,” said Col. Hans Bush, ISAF Joint Command spokesman.

ISAF never released any public follow-up statement about the battle. It later admitted to me that three civilians were killed in the bombing, although local officials put the number far higher.

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