More Confusion on Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 9 months ago

We have covered rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, both at the micro- and macroscopic levels, i.e., from room clearing operations to the use of munitions delivered from air.  In this coverage we have challenged not only the written rules, but the in-situ application and communication of them.  Rather than using MSM reports, we have done original investigative reporting, conveying the stories of at least two NCOs who were recently in Iraq.  We have received thousands of visits to these articles from military network domains, including CENTCOM, the Pentagon, NCTC, Army, Marines and others.  There was a promise by the administration to revise the ‘overly-restrictive’ rules of engagement upon announcement of “the surge.”  Yet there continues to be obvious indecision and confusion regarding both the application and communication of ROE, the most recent instances of which involved kinetic operations in a Mosque and university in Baghdad.

As a contextual background to the most recent issues, in Rules of Engagement and Indecision we discussed the ~200 Taliban, in formation for a funeral, and who escaped without being engaged by a predator drone because of bureaucracy and indecision on rules of engagement.

Every airstrike, whether from a manned aircraft or a Predator, must be at least approved by commanders at the regional Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC. If an intended target is particularly sensitive, the decision could go all the way up to a general officer serving as top combat commander … The current rules of engagement, likely developed by senior Pentagon officials, do not rule out an attack on religious gathering but do generally prohibit an attack on a religious site such as a cemetery or mosque, military analyst and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs told MSNBC TV.

Ramadi combat action has seen U.S. forces finally engage insurgent fire coming from Mosques, after “Militants inside the Al Qadir Al Kilami mosque fired small arms, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at U.S. forces.”  In this instance, there was hesitation, and it took direct attacks against U.S. forces from the Mosque to provoke engagement by the U.S.

In the recent security operations, Maliki has allegedly directed robust action against the tactics of using Mosques as defense by the insurgents.  “We are full of hope. We have no other choice but to use force and any place where we receive fire will not be safe even if it is a school, a mosque, a political party office or home,” he said. “There will be no safe place in Iraq for terrorists.”

The U.S. has indeed recently raided Mosques in kinetic operations.

Two suspects were detained when members of the 10th Mountain Division “Commandos” conducted a search of the Khashab mosque in western Baghdad on Jan. 12 aimed at capturing insurgents believed responsible for assassinating the governor of Baghdad. Insurgent propaganda was found in the mosque.

The search was planned based on intelligence gathered from numerous citizens in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, officials said. Residents witnessed insurgents leaving from the mosque then fleeing to the mosque after the assassination.

There is even more recent action inside Mosques, followed on by a confused statement from the Multi-National Force:

Coalition forces detained three suspected terrorists during a raid in Baghdad Sunday morning.
 
The targeted suspected terrorist, who was detained on the scene, is reported to be involved in the procurement and distribution of weapons, including explosives to conduct improvised explosive devices attacks against Iraqi citizens and Coalition Forces.
 
While conducting the raid, Coalition Forces entered a mosque where the targeted suspect was hiding.  Coalition Forces detained the targeted suspect along with two other suspected terrorists.
 
During the operation, one local Iraqi woman received wounds to her thigh and head.  Coalition medical personnel treated her onsite and she was transported to a local hospital for further care.
 
“Coalition forces soldiers respect the sanctity and holiness of all places of worship and exercise the utmost restraint when planning for and considering the conduct of operations in and around mosques,? said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, MNF-I spokesperson.
 
“We do not enter mosques for the sole purposes of disrupting insurgent activities or conducting a show of force.  Mosque entries occur only as a last resort, and only when substantial and credible evidence shows insurgent activity is occurring there – i.e., meetings, storage of weapons, harboring of insurgent leaders,? he said.

Lt. Col. Garver states unequivocally that the U.S. does not enter Mosques for the “sole purpuse of disrupting insurgent activities” (causing us to question what conditions would warrant entry if not disrupting insurgent activities), and then proceeds to outline conditions that warrant entry into a Mosque, including but not limited to evidence that entry might disrupt insurgent activities.

Based on such a statement, it is not obvious that the mistake of allowing ~200 Taliban to escape from a funeral would not be repeated either in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we may even be devolving from a context where ROE is spoken of to one where we speak of RUF, or rules for the use of force.  A recent instance at a university in Baghdad shows that, given U.S. rules of engagement and avoidance of collateral damage, police in riot gear might have been more appropriate to the circumstances (more here):

Students at Baghdad’s Mustansariya University frustrated a US raid on Thursday with a large protest, Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic.

“The American forces tried this morning to raid Mustansiriya University in the East of Baghdad, but the students made a massive demonstration protesting the trespassing of these forces on the university campus,” a student told the news agency, adding that the action “forced these forces to withdraw from the university.”

No one wants to see innocent students (if indeed they are innocent) come under fire.  But if student protests can back down U.S. kinetic operations, then the entire paradigm for twenty first century combat must be re-formulated (by Western nations, that is, since the terrorists have no rules).  While U.S. soldiers get backed down by university students, a senior JAG officer says that in his opinion, U.S. troops “use self-defense too much in order to escape liability.”  Since there is no other reason for someone to use self-defense than to “escape liability,” the JAG has engaged in tautology.  He should have his Juris Doctor rescinded, pick up a rifle and stand a post where he has to defend himself.

The same concerns over RUF have manifested themselves at the U.S. border recently, with border guards afraid for their lives because of the nature of the current threat.

Violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is undergoing what U.S. law-enforcement authorities call “an unprecedented surge,” some of it fueled by weapons and ammunition purchased or stolen in the United States.

Federal, state and local law-enforcement officials from Texas to California, concerned about the impact of illegally imported weapons into Mexico, say they already are outmanned and outgunned by ruthless gangs that collect millions of dollars in profits by smuggling aliens and drugs into this country.

“These gangs have the weapons and the will to protect their lucrative cargoes,” said Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr., the sheriff of Zapata County, Texas, who founded and served as the first president of the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition. “With automatic weapons, grenades and grenade launchers, they pose a significant danger.”

Last month, Mexican military officials in Matamoros, just south of Brownsville, Texas, stopped a tractor-trailer containing weapons and ammunition, along with a pickup truck fitted with armor and bulletproof glass.

The weapons included 18 M-16 assault rifles, one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher. Also seized were several M-4 carbines, 17 handguns of various calibers, 200 magazines for different weapons, 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories.

The awful Tennessee versus Garner SCOTUS decision will ensure that the U.S. border becomes even more violent, and we find it likely that in the future it will be difficult to staff the ranks with border guards due to the danger (prior coverage in Guardsmen Attacked and Overrun at U.S. Border).

In summary, we enter Mosques when we feel that there is no other option, but in fact, contrary to this we respect religious sanctuary and do not enter Mosques for the purpose of disrupting insurgent activities, according to Lt. Col. Garver.  We enter Mosques but we don’t, and then we feel the need to explain to the world that we enter Mosques but we don’t.  Students at a University in Baghdad can back down armed U.S. forces, and U.S. border guards receive fire from automatic weapons and grenade launchers at the border with Mexico.  Because the ROE prevents U.S. forces from protecting property, the looters stole the Baghdad museum empty, thus demonstrating in the worst possible picture display that U.S. forces could not or would not protect the property of Iraqis.  Rather than speak of “rules of engagement,” since it appears that the U.S. military is conducting a gigantic police campaign in Iraq, “rules for the use of force” might be more appropriate.  Thus have ex-Mahdi army members returned to the streets in Baghdad for the protection of their neighborhoods.

Prior:

 

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  • Imust B Crazy

    The best way to convert the JAG corps from its Internal Affairs mindset is to get them out of HQ and into the field. GEN Petraeous should embed them at the battalion level. Their job should be helping the troops get the job done not protecting the COL/GEN’s posterior.


You are currently reading "More Confusion on Rules of Engagement", entry #478 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Rules of Engagement,U.S. Sovereignty and was published March 12th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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