10 months ago
Courtesy of Andrew Exum:
From that day forward, I watched as the war slowly fell apart at the hands of our Army’s middle management — typified by that battalion commander. Case and point, GEN McChrystal’s tenure in Afghanistan. To me, the most compelling part of the Rolling Stone article is the scene where a sergeant down range writes an email to McChrystal stating he believes GEN McChrystal doesn’t get the war and has ordered policies that are killing men on the front lines. GEN McChrystal gets on the next flight to this sergeant’s FOB and goes on patrol with the sergeant’s unit. Afterwards, he holds an After Action Review with the sergeant and his men in the outpost’s makeshift chowhall. During the AAR he notices a laminated list posted on the chowhall’s wall that reads something like “Rules of Engagement As Ordered By COMISAF.” Upon reading the list, McChrystal says aloud “these aren’t my rules.” And thus my point, somewhere between GEN McChrystal issuing orders and the point at which these front line soldiers received them, the Army’s middle management bureaucracy altered them to be significantly risk adverse (sic).
This is a first hand account, anecdotal, but I presume reliable, concerning a surprise for General McChrystal concerning how his rules were applied. So does this account rehabilitate McChrystal’s image (which seems to be its point)?
I will grant the proposition that staff and field grade officers (at least some of them) were risk adverse (sic – averse). I will grant the proposition that there were modifications, amendments, clarifications, additional stipulations, and so on and so forth, in the unit-level ROE as compared to the theater-specific ROE, just as there is between the standing ROE of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theater-specific ROE.
What I refuse to grant is that any of this “altered them to be significantly risk adverse.” McChrystal’s ROE were risk averse to begin with, and a recapitulation of the rules of engagement will show that missions had to end because there was a “chance” that an illumination round would fall on a domicile. When the Marines went into Marjah, General Rodriguez attempted to micromanage an entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force like they were children. “Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marja in February, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense.” Listen to that again. Rodriguez’s operation center had to approve offensive air strikes. Seriously. You simply can’t make this stuff up.
The problems came from the top.
“If you are in a situation where you are under fire from the enemy… if there is any chance of creating civilian casualties or if you don’t know whether you will create civilian casualties, if you can withdraw from that situation without firing, then you must do so.”
I can compute the probability that a falling satellite will land on McChrystal’s head, and it is non-zero. Thus, there is a “chance” of that happening. This guidance is stupid, issued by stupid men, applied in a stupid campaign if that’s the way it is going to be conducted. Are the staff and field grade officers (and their JAGs) responsible for the ROE? Yes. Should the men at Joyce (who made the decision to deny air support to the Marines as Ganjgal) have spent time in Leavenworth? Yes.
Does any of this obviate the responsibility McChrystal had for the ROE? No, not one bit. This isn’t an either-or proposition, it is both-and. And frankly, we don’t seem to have learned our lessons.
The number of British soldiers being shot dead in Afghanistan is spiralling as new tactics ban them from shooting at the Taliban until they are fired at themselves.
Eleven have been killed by enemy gunfire in Helmand in the past three months compared with two in the same period during 2011.
Soldiers blame efforts to slash the number of civilian casualties ordered by the US general in command of Coalition forces.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday denied the rules of engagement for British troops had changed.
But a spokesman for Coalition forces said British soldiers were told to change procedures after a tactical review.
Troops yesterday said they are now more vulnerable at road-junction checkpoints or while patrolling Taliban heartlands.
They say that previously they could shoot first but are now allowed only to return fire.
One corporal said: “When I arrived in Helmand, my officers said our tactics were going to change. They said if I saw somebody carrying a rifle or a rocket launcher, I shouldn’t fire at him. Only if he shot at me or a member of my patrol, and I could see a muzzle flash, could I use my weapon.
“I was shocked and so were my mates. We are trained to close in and kill the enemy, not to let him stroll on, watch us and let him choose the best time to ambush us.
Absurd. Even if you argue that the head of a family ought to be allowed to carry a personal defense weapon, an RPG doesn’t fit that category. We still have good men deployed in Afghanistan, and we are letting the enemy “choose the best time to ambush us.”
How utterly sad and despicable.