Military Rules Of Engagement (ROE) Are FUBAR!
According to General Stanley McChrystal, who commands the NATO troops in Afghanistan, the troops must make a cultural shift from conventional warfare to protecting Afghan civilians. If troops are under fire from the enemy, and if there's any chance of creating civilian casualties, and if the troops can withdraw from the situation without firing, they must do so. The measure of effectiveness will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence, not the number of militants killed.
What the above means is that, for all intents and purposes, troops cannot return enemy fire if there is any chance at all of harming an Afghan civilian. In other words, NATO troops are, essentially, under the same constraints that a typical police department, in the U.S. is under, whenever hostages are involved.
A few years ago, all but one member of a SEAL team were KIA in Afghanistan in large part because of ROE considerations. In that incident, the SEALS came upon three male Afghans that were unarmed. The SEALS detained the Afghans for a couple of hours and then released them against their better judgement. The only choice that the SEALS had was to kill the Afghans or to let them go. If the SEALS had killed them, they would have violated the ROE and they'd undoubtedly spend the rest of their lives in prison for murder. The released Afghans (not surprisingly) notified Taliban fighters, that were close by, of the SEAL team's position. As a result, a four-hour firefight ensued in which all but one SEAL was KIA.
Under the ROE, NATO troops are not allowed to shoot at the enemy if the enemy is unarmed. Indeed, the enemy, using emplaced weapons, can fire at troops from a building, drop its weapons, run across the street, unarmed, to another building where weapons have been emplaced, and resume firing at the troops. This scenario has, in fact, occurred in Iraq during a firefight with the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marines. During the firefight, the Marines observed two insurgents running, unarmed, back and forth (four times no less) between two buildings only to resume their firing at the Marines.
The young men and women that serve in our military have enough to worry about without having to worry about being brought up on charges because they mistakenly killed an Afghan non-combatant. And in many cases, I don't know how they can be expected to distinguish between an Afghan civilian and an insurgent in spite of all the INTEL and technology available to them. Moreover, how are they expected to know for certain that there's not a chance of creating civilian casualties? It's a given, that in war, there is always and everywhere a good chance of "creating" civilian casualties. It seems to me that, more and more, our troops are being used simply as a global police force and that the ROE has, in many cases, rendered them sitting ducks.
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New Port Richey, Florida, United States