More on ROE in Afghanistan: Refusing the Chase

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 11 months ago

Michael Yon weighs in on ROE in Afghanistan.

I’ve witnessed too many missions (several in the last week) wherein British or Americans refused to fire because they could not positively spot a weapon, despite it being flagrantly obvious that we were tracking actual enemies.  It’s very frustrating for me at times because I want to say to an American or British commander…Take the shot!  This is too obvious! But that is not the place of a writer.  The strategic wisdom behind the Rules of Engagement can be difficult to contest, though tactically, those same ROE can be fantastically frustrating.  Tactically, the restrictive ROE endanger our troops every day, but strategically there is no doubt that strong ROE save the lives of even more.

Ah, and that’s the question, isn’t it?  In the end, which contributes the most towards conclusion of the campaign and the safest prosecution of the effort?  I have exchanged e-mail with Michael about this, respectfully of course, since I so admire Michael and his work.

The tension is between tactical interests and strategic interests.  I will not divulge the situation or the sources, but I know of instances in which I would differ with the conclusion that the strategic interests were served with a less robust ROE.  I have detailed a more public instance of robust ROE before, and noted that lack of this approach might have led in the end to more Marine casualties.

But since the tactical directive has been issued by General McChrystal, it may be moot to debate the point.  Let’s move ahead to unintended consequences.  Lack of more robust ROE has even recently caused Taliban fighters to escape from buildings because it could not be demonstrated that there were no noncombatants.  Yet lack of logistical support with helicopters, along with doctrinal reticence concerning distributed operations in the Marine Corps, cause the inability (or refusal) to pursue escaping Taliban.

Yet later, we are told by local Afghans that the Marines should follow and kill every single Taliban.

“It is still just the beginning,” said Mullah Shin Gul from Nad Ali district. “The Americans need to begin reconstruction, by agreement with the people. They should establish centers here in the districts, and they should follow every single Taliban and kill him. In a short while it will be too late. The people will lose trust.”

ROE is a situation specific issue, and no one set of ROE is most efficiently applied in every situation.  Perhaps it’s advantageous to implement the specific tactical directive that McChrystal has given us in Afghanistan.  Perhaps.  Time will tell.  But what is clear at this juncture is that there aren’t enough troops or logistical assets to conduct the chase that ensues when the current ROE is implemented.  Afghanistan is too large, the mountains are too numerous, and the terrain is too forbidding to BOTH implement the current rules of engagement AND refuse the chase.

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You are currently reading "More on ROE in Afghanistan: Refusing the Chase", entry #3519 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Rules of Engagement and was published August 3rd, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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