Originally published 12:00 a.m., March 6, 2010, updated 10:45 p.m., March 7, 2010
EDITORIAL: Ready, aim, hold your fire
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The recent battle in Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province was a key test case for new rules of engagement that emphasized protecting civilians rather than killing insurgents. The town was taken, but whether that was because of the new rules or despite them remains to be seen.
The rules of engagement are probably the most restrictive ever seen for a war of this nature. NATO forces cannot fire on suspected Taliban fighters unless they are clearly visible, armed and posing a direct threat. Buildings suspected of containing insurgents cannot be targeted unless it is certain that civilians are not also present. Air strikes and night raids are limited, and prisoners have to be released or transferred within four days, making for a 96-hour catch-and-release program.
In Marjah, the enemy quickly adapted to the rules, which led to bizarre circumstances such as Taliban fighters throwing down their weapons when they were out of ammunition and taunting coalition troops with impunity or walking in plain view with women behind them carrying their weapons like caddies. If World War II had been fought with similar rules, the battles would still be raging. Paradoxically, America's most successful post-conflict reconstructions were in Germany and Japan, where enemy-occupied towns like Marjah were flattened without a second thought.
U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the NATO commander, said, "The Afghan people are at the center of our mission. In reality, they are our mission." Yet protecting civilians is difficult in an unconventional conflict in which the battlefield has no front lines. As an anonymous Pentagon planner told Time magazine, "It's harder to separate the enemy from the people when they are the people." Helmand province is part of the Taliban's core area; they see the fight as homeland defense.
The fact that the Taliban routinely torture and kill noncombatants as a matter of policy is not only lost in this debate, it is deemed irrelevant. The Taliban's excesses are discounted because the Taliban are the bad guys. Coalition troops are the good guys and are held to a higher standard.
Unfortunately, the higher the United States raises the bar, the more difficult the fight becomes, and the more that is promised, the greater mistakes count. On Feb. 14, 12 people, six of them children, were killed when two U.S. rockets slammed into a home outside Marjah. On Feb. 22, an air strike in Uruzgan province killed at least 21 civilians. Both of these events have exacerbated tensions inside the country, and Gen. McChrystal made a televised apology for the Uruzgan incident.
The fighting has wound down in Marjah, which may or may not validate the rules of engagement. Most of the local Taliban either melted away to the frontier or simply put down their weapons and are still there. The true test will come when NATO implements rules of disengagement. When coalition forces pull out, Marjah may well go back to being the Taliban stronghold it always has been, and those who cooperated with NATO and Afghan government authorities will be held to account.
No level of good behavior on the part of American forces will validate a conflict in the eyes of those who oppose it. Some hearts and minds will never be changed.
pops, you really think the dems in office to day know any thing about fighting a war. There good at tiying are hands be hind are backs and telling the guys over there go fight. Look at all the sh@t they pulled on us when we where in vietnam. I say let them do there job or pull them out.
They need to let the military do what they are trained to do best.
I have heard many say that politicians running the war is why we lost in Vietnam.
I'm not saying we should turn into animals and kill 'em all, but would these people we're fighting show us the same respect we're showing them? No.
Whether or not it had to do with our nation's foreign policy, WE were attacked on our home soil.
Vietnam was a different time, different place. The insurgency back then was popular among many people there. We were fighting not only the Vietnamese, but the Russians and Chinese who were supporting/supplying them.
If it were up to me, I'd take our troops out, bring them home with their families and let the Israelis off the leash after the terrorists. They've been fighting terrorists nearly all their lives. Against terrorists, they're a more battle-hardened force.
One problem with the Democrats is no matter who it is, they always try to find a diplomatic solution all the time. Look at Carter. When they took hostages in Iran, what did he do? Reagan came into office and got 'em out. Or how about bin Laden during the Clinton administration? Didn't do anything. Same way with Hussein.
Look back on JFK. When the Russians built the Berlin Wall, what did he do? When they put missiles in Cuba, what did he do? They tried to find a diplomatic solution to it. Granted, those were different times and I probably would've tried to avoid a war at all costs too.
It begs the question of what will the Obama administration do when Iran starts making offensive moves? Or even more frightening - North Korea.
One thing you gotta give Bush - he didn't sit and do nothing.
Last edited by hogger129; 03-08-2010 at 07:12 PM..
Wonder if the Feds. Would use the same Rules of Engagement in the U.S. when they go to round up our guns. They didn't use that policy at Waco or Ruby Ridge and made the threat on Elian Gonzalez's Grandparents.
Too bad the people who planed and executed this policy aren't embedded in the units that have to carry out this policy. Wonder how long it would last if they were being shot at and couldn't return fire?
Psalm 12 verse 8: The wicked walk on every side when the vilest men are exalted.
A couple of days ago one of my friends mentioned that one of his other friends son had been offered 200,000.00 to re-enlist, he is a ranger. I told him with the rules of engagement I didn't think it was worth it to be a target.
The war(s) are making a butt load of money for many folks and they are not about to let it go away quickly. Just like the vietnam war was a cash cow for many people so is this one. I doubt that america will ever get disengaged from either Iraq or Afghanistan.