September 29, 2009 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - When it gets to the point that even Afghan tribal leaders start demanding that U.S. and NATO ground forces take off the silk gloves and start killing more Taliban fighters, something must indeed be wrong with the way our rules of engagement hamper battlefield operations.
The tribal leader referred to above was quoted in a Washington Post article as countenancing more of the type of airstrikes which took place in Khunduz province on September 4 which along with killing significant numbers of the enemy also unfortunately resulted in civilian casualties.
Rather than decrying the incident, Ahmadullah Wardak, the provincial council chairman confronted U.S. theater commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, bitterly protesting the reticence of U.S. forces to engage the enemy under Obama's new rules of engagement, "If we do three more operations like was done the other night, stability will come to Kunduz...If people do not want to live in peace and harmony, that's not our fault...We've been too nice to the thugs." [source, Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/05/AR2009090502832_pf.html]
Mounting U.S. casualties [96 in July and August] is the harvest which the new rules have produced and which, according to no lesser authority than McChrystal, warns is sending the war effort into a death spiral from which only a huge troop increase and reformatted strategy can counter.
Oddly, neither the strategic reformulation touted by McChrystal nor a similar plan outlined by the American Enterprise Institute [see, PipeLineNews.org, Afghan Crisis - Gen. McChrystal Calls For More Troops, Threatens To Quit, Obama Stalls, https://www.pipelinenews.org/index.cfm?page=afghan9.22.09%2Ehtm] even mentions modifying the rules of engagement [ROE], with the single exception of McChrystal stating the ROE must be adhered to.
Though it appears that we are our own worst enemies in tying our hands in the fighting NATO put similarly nonsensical limitations on combat operations last year which go so far as to actually require asking homeowners for permission to search their homes, for evidence of complicity with the enemy.
"The rules of engagement for Nato troops will focus on house searches, saying they should be led by Afghan forces, and that permission from homeowners should first be sought. A limit on the size and weight of bombs used in air strikes was imposed last year, but there is continuing anxiety in Nato about the counterproductive impact of civilian casualties on the majority Pashtun population." [source, Guardian UK, Nato tightens rules of engagement to limit further civilian casualties in Afghanistan, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/09/nato.afghanistan]
With the country now having been continuously at war for 30 years since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the Afghans above all others understand the brutal nature of modern conflict and the unfortunate but unavoidable complication of collateral casualties. That it is they who are demanding increased aggressiveness on our part clearly demonstrates that until battlefield constraints largely put in place to assuage the anti-war Western media, are removed, hope of winning this conflict is fading faster than the president's falling poll numbers.
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