Via George Will.
Torrents of uninteresting mail inundate members of Congress, but occasionally there are riveting communications, such as a recent e-mail from a noncommissioned officer (NCO) serving in Afghanistan. He explains why the rules of engagement for U.S. troops are “too prohibitive for coalition forces to achieve sustained tactical successes.”
Receiving mortar fire during an overnight mission, his unit called for a 155mm howitzer illumination round to be fired to reveal the enemy’s location. The request was rejected “on the grounds that it may cause collateral damage.” The NCO says that the only thing that comes down from an illumination round is a canister, and the likelihood of it hitting someone or something was akin to that of being struck by lightning.
Returning from a mission, his unit took casualties from an improvised explosive device that the unit knew had been placed no more than an hour earlier. “There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties” and “two suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home.” U.S. forces “are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan National Security Forces personnel present.” But when his unit asked Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds that the people in the house “are good people.”
On another mission, some Afghan adults ran off with their children immediately before the NCO’s unit came under heavy small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and the unit asked for artillery fire on the enemy position. The response was a question: Where is the nearest civilian structure? “Judging distances,” the NCO writes dryly, “can be difficult when bullets and RPGs are flying over your head.” When the artillery support was denied because of fear of collateral damage, the unit asked for a “smoke mission” — like an illumination round; only the canister falls to earth — “to conceal our movement as we planned to flank and destroy the enemy.” This request was granted — but because of fear of collateral damage, the round was deliberately fired one kilometer off the requested site, making “the smoke mission useless and leaving us to fend for ourselves.”
Counterinsurgency doctrine says that success turns on winning the “hearts and minds” of the population, hence rules of engagement that reduce risks to the population but increase those of U.S. combatants.
As an Iraq war veteran, I agree wholeheartedly with the NCO who wrote the email.
Afghanistan had major Taliban/Al Qaeda safehavens. Invading was not only necessary, but the right thing to do. The problem is, we didn’t go far enough. An all-out, no holds barred, tactical and strategic doctrine is what’s needed.
The ROE for this war is chock full of unprecedented stupidity. This is the first time an American government has dictated that our troops ask permission from the enemy before they fight. That’s basically what this shit amounts to. Like “Karzai’s Rules”:
• No night or surprise searches.
• Villagers have to be warned prior to searches.
• ANA or ANP must accompany U.S. units on searches.
• U.S. Soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first.
• U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present.
• Only women can search women.
• Troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch him placing an IED but not if insurgents are walking away from an area where explosives have been laid.
This is absolutely bat-shit insane. What kind of a war are we fighting?? And where are General David Petraeus, General Stanley McCrystal, and General Ray Odierno? Why are they not raising hell over this?
It’s inconceivable that the United States of America would be reduced to negotiating with the enemy on the battlefield.
The Military Joint Chiefs of Staff are ultimately responsible for concocting the ROE.
This is their official site: http://www.jcs.mil/
I cannot believe that a Joint Chiefs of Staff for the United States military could ever hog-tie us in such a manner and literally hand the enemy an advantage on a goddamned silver platter.
Whose side are they on?