Detention Policy in Afghanistan: Micromanaging the Military

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From Justin Fishel:

One week into the invasion of Marjah, Afghanistan Marines and NATO forces are beginning to feel the restrictions put on them by their own rules of engagement. The roughly 800 Taliban insurgents who decided to stay and fight need to be carefully distinguished from tens of thousands of innocent civilians before they can be engaged by coalition forces. The goal, says NATO’s top general in Afghanistan, is to win the hearts and minds of the population, not to decimate it.

But the Taliban know the rules. They know that Marines aren’t allowed to fire on them if they don’t have a weapon. Marines have struggled with Taliban snipers who lay down their rifles after they run out of bullets, taunting the American forces as they walk away from the buildings they used for cover. Fox’s Conner Powell is embedded with a Marine unit in the region. “We’ve seen them be extremely disciplined with their fire”, Powell said. “They’ve not returned fire when they’ve been attacked by Taliban insurgents unless they can confirm in fact that it was Taliban insurgents or snipers shooting at them.”

NATO forces are also hampered by what’s known as the “96 hour rule”. Last summer NATO instituted a new detainee policy which says that if any NATO or International Security Assistance Force soldiers, including Americans, can’t transfer captured terrorists or enemy combatants to the Afghan justice system within 96 hours, they have to be released. The problem is that in many cases there isn’t enough time or resources to move detainees, and they end up going free. Some in the military are calling it the “catch and release rule.”

[ … ]

There are some exceptions to the rules. If a wanted terrorist is picked up by a U.S. Special Forces unit working under the confines of Operation Enduring Freedom, rather than NATO, that prisoner would be sent to a detention facility at Bagram Air Base, where U.S. interrogators would be free to question him within the guidelines of the Army Field Manual.

Justin is behind the times (see ROE category).  The Marines aren’t just now beginning to feel the restrictions of ROE.  But the last paragraph is particularly troubling, because it means that [1] we are still pursuing the silly HVT campaign in Afghanistan with our special operations forces, and [2] apparently, the Marines engaged in fighting in Marjah are under the purview of the ISAF and not Operation Enduring Freedom.  Thus, they are subject to the detention policy.

As for the use of SOF, the Marines had them (Recon, and likely Scout Sniper) inside Marjah before the infantry moved in, directly supporting the campaign on the ground.  The Army could take a page from the Marines in terms of how to use SOF.  As for the ridiculous detention policy, it’s one more example of micromanaging the campaign in Afghanistan.

Staff and flag officers don’t trust field grade officers and NCOs enough to give them the latitude to make extemporaneous decisions in the battle space which are conducive to the proper conduct of the campaign.  It’s no different than the tactical directive on ROE issued by McChrystal, as if Lance Corporals and Sergeant Majors under fire need his counsel on who the enemy is – or how long they can detain them in the absence of a judge or a judge advocate.


Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan II

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan

  • DesertPete45

    When will this damn nightmare end?? We have been in A-stan more than 2X as long as it took us to defeat the Germans, Italians, Japanese and other assorted combatants. Will the American people ever be able to pry themselves away from sports, reality TV, dancing with the whores and American Idolatry long enough to become outraged by what our young men must endure. Where is the anger, outrage, demonstrations etc????? Obama doesn’t give a rat’s ass; he hates the military and is using our men as pawns in his stupid ass world appeasement hate America game. This is MY country dammit not his. He is an interloper and an agent provacteur, he is purposely destroying America economically but even worse he is destroying our patriotic young men. They world laughs at us as does our enemy. I have called the armed forces committees in both house and senate and get the same crap from repubs and dems alike. “I will pass your comments and concerns on the the senator, congressman.” BS!!! No one cares. Where are the leaders who will stand up in DC, call a press conference and about the evils this fool in the oval office is doinig to our nation. I don’t give a damn about any politicians career. They serve us but they are off the reservation and we need to round them up and bring them back on. I lie awake at night and think I am in the twilight zone. Is this really happening to MY beloved country. Feb. 19 was John Basilone day. I believe he is rolling in his grave in agony for his country. He is the hero of Raritan, NJ where I grew up and went to school (haven’t lived there in over 40 years). How can this be???? Where is the outrage. Let’s support patriots such as Allen West whom the Army wanted to court martial until Americans became outraged. Up is down, right is wrong, dark is light and Obama is an traitor and an imposter.

  • BruceR

    Hey, it’s gotten better. A year ago it was the 72-hour rule. And to be fair to COMISAF, it’s an Afghan government rule, which governs their own forces and the ANP as well.

    The inevitable consequence, as the article says, was the release of most detainees. Even if transport back to Kandahar City or Lashkar Gah were possible, the lack of being able to develop any kind of case justifying their detention in that time frame made their immediate release the most likely outcome. It would take longer than that in most cases to declassify and translate the capturing Western soldiers’ statements and evidence, so unless the guy signed a confession you had nothing. Obviously anything more than basic questioning of detainees was impossible under the circumstances.

  • Herschel Smith

    Well, Bruce, under your prescription it doesn’t seem to have gotten any better at all. If you have to create court in the middle of the battle space, 24 hours is the same as 48 is the same as 72 is the same as 96. In the end, if you don’t have a “signed confession,” you let them go.

    I do happen to know that the Marines’ detention policy in the Anbar province was more robust than that. But since all of that stuff in Iraq didn’t really work … oh, wait.

  • DesertPete45

    You are correct Herschel, ask the Marines in Helmand who had to release t-ban. This policy may result in fewer prisoners!!!

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You are currently reading "Detention Policy in Afghanistan: Micromanaging the Military", entry #4581 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,General McChrystal,Micromanaging the Military and was published February 21st, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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