Archive for the 'General McChrystal' Category



Stanley McChrystal On Gun Control

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 6 months ago

In his own words.

Former Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led the war in Afghanistan, endorsed strong gun control laws Tuesday on Morning Joe.

“I spent a career carrying typically either an M16 or an M4 Carbine. An M4 Carbine fires a .223 caliber round which is 5.56 mm at about 3000 feet per second. When it hits a human body, the effects are devastating. It’s designed for that,” McChrystal explained. “That’s what our soldiers ought to carry. I personally don’t think there’s any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America.”

“We’ve got to take a serious look—I understand everyone’s desire to have whatever they want—but we’ve got to protect our children, we’ve got to protect our police, we’ve got to protect our population,” McChrystal said. “Serious action is necessary. Sometimes we talk about very limited actions on the edges and I just don’t think that’s enough.”

“The number of people in America killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations, and I don’t think we’re a bloodthirsty country,” he said. “We need to look at everything we can do to safeguard our people.”

First of all, when McChrystal carried a weapon it had selective fire capability, unlike my own rifles, but I don’t want to press that difference too far because I think it should be legal for mine to have selective fire capability too.

But the irony is that McChrystal, who issued the most restrictive rules of engagement ever promulgated on American troops, waxes know-it-all on what it takes to keep our people safe.  He can micromanage the campaign, release a bunch of inept, bureacratic, PowerPoint jockeys into highly protected mega-bases to command the troops under fire in the field, turn so-called general purpose troops into constabulary patrolmen, and become a laughingstock when his juvenile staff turned party-animal with Rolling Stone.  But he didn’t manage the campaign in such a manner as to keep our children in uniform safe in Afghanistan.  If he didn’t do that, why should I care what he has to say about anything else regarding my safety?

This is what happens when media stars think they know somethng about policy.  So here is a suggestion for Mr. McChrystal.  You go read the lamentations at this article from the families and widows of SFC Kenneth Westbrook, Gunnery Sgt Aaron M Kenefick, Corpsman James Ray “Doc” Layton, and others in the Ganjgal engagement.  You know the one I’m talking about, even if others have forgotten.  You and I will never forget.  The one where they left our men to perish without fire support because of your rules of engagement.  You sleep with this reality, if you can, you ponder on those men and their lives morning and night, and you lament with the widows and families.  And then you tell me why I should give a shit what you have to say about anything, much less what it takes to keep my children or loved ones safe?

UPDATE: Hot Air also weighs in.

Reprimands in the Marine Deaths in the Ganjgal Engagement

Problems with the Applied Rules of Engagement

Why Marines in Afghanistan Want The Taliban To Open Fire

More Rules Of Engagement Examples From Afghanistan II

More Rules Of Engagement Examples From Afghanistan

Afghanistan Policy In Disarray

The Side Effects Of Afghanistan Rules Of Engagement

Rules Of Engagement Too Prohibitive To Achieve Sustained Tactical Success

AR 15-6 Investigation Of Marine Deaths In Kunar Province

Rules Of Engagement Slow Progress In Marjah

Marine Force Protection In Garmsir?

Micromanaging The Campaign In Afghanistan

Ganjgal Revisited

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 11 months ago

Prior Study: Reprimands in Marine Deaths in Ganjgal Engagement

There’s something rotten afoot.

Like other U.S. trainers with the Afghan force that day, former Army Capt. William Swenson had expected light resistance. Instead, the contingent walked into a furious six-hour gunfight with Taliban ambushers in which Swenson repeatedly charged through intense fire to retrieve wounded and dead.

The 2009 battle of Ganjgal is perhaps the most remarkable of the Afghan war for its extraordinary heroism and deadly incompetence. It produced dozens of casualties, career-killing reprimands and a slew of commendations for valor. They included two Medal of Honor nominations, one for Swenson.

Yet months after the first living Army officer in some 40 years was put in for the nation’s highest military award for gallantry, his nomination vanished into a bureaucratic black hole. The U.S. military in Afghanistan said an investigation had found that it was “lost” in the approval process, something that several experts dismissed as improbable, saying that hasn’t happened since the awards system was computerized in the mid-1970s.

In fact, the investigation uncovered evidence that suggests a far more troubling explanation. It showed that as former Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer’s Medal of Honor nomination from the same battle sailed toward approval despite questions about the accuracy of the account of his deeds, there may have been an effort to kill Swenson’s nomination.

Swenson’s original nomination was downgraded to a lesser award, in violation of Army and Defense Department regulations, evidence uncovered by the investigation showed.

Moreover, Swenson’s Medal of Honor nomination “packet,” a digitized file that contains dozens of documents attesting to his “heroism … above and beyond the call of duty,” disappeared from the computer system dedicated to processing awards, a circumstance for which the military said it has “no explanation.”

The unpublished findings, which McClatchy Newspapers has reviewed, threaten to taint a military awards process that’s designed to leave no margin of doubt or possibility of error about the heroism and sacrifices of U.S. service personnel. They also could bolster charges by some officers, lawmakers, veterans’ groups and experts that the process is vulnerable to improper interference and manipulation, embarrassing the military services and the Obama administration.

[ ... ]

Interviewed by military investigators five days after the battle, Swenson implicitly criticized top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan by blasting their rules of engagement. Angered that his repeated calls for artillery and air support were denied during the ambush, he charged that in trying to prevent civilian casualties for political reasons, the rules were costing U.S. soldiers’ lives.

“We are not looking at the ground fighter and why he is using these air assets,” Swenson said, according to a transcript obtained by McClatchy. “We just reduced an asset that’s politically unpopular. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there saying, ‘I would really like that asset.’ There are probably a lot of people who got killed as a result of not having that asset.

“I’m not a politician. I’m just the guy on the ground asking for that ammunition to be dropped because it’s going to save lives,” he continued.

Further, several key parts of the Army’s draft account of Swenson’s deeds — a central pillar of a nomination file — conflict with the Marines’ account of Meyer’s acts.

Further, several key parts of the Army’s draft account of Swenson’s deeds — a central pillar of a nomination file — conflict with the Marines’ account of Meyer’s acts.

The Army’s version, a copy of which was obtained by McClatchy, said it was Swenson — not Meyer — who led the recovery of U.S. and Afghan casualties from the Ganjgal Valley.

“The need for a ground recovery of all remaining casualties had now become clear,” the Army’s draft narrative said. “Facing this extreme and dire circumstance, and going above and beyond the call of duty, CPT Swenson gathered available combat power to lead a return up the wash.”

The Army’s draft narrative also corroborated the reporting of a McClatchy correspondent who survived the ambush that the belated arrival of U.S. helicopters had allowed trapped American personnel to escape, and that they weren’t saved by Meyer.

“A team of scout helicopters … arrived in the valley. CPT Swenson … began to talk the aircrafts’ fires onto the various enemy targets,” the draft narrative said. “The enemy sporadically engaged coalition forces while they were overhead. This provided (Swenson and those with him) the slim opportunity they needed” to pull back.

The problem of conflicting narratives would have been eliminated with the quiet death of Swenson’s nomination, which was put in some two months before Meyer was nominated.

Analysis & Commentary

Thanks to loyal reader and veteran of RC East in Afghanistan, Dirty Mick, who sends this link along.  He also points out that “if the army sorts out this paperwork snafu this will be the 6th MOH recipient (There’s only 10 in the whole GWOT so far) awarded for warriors that have served in Kunar Province. Staff Sergeant Giunta, Sergeant Meyer, Sergeant Miller, Lieutenant Murphy, and Sergeant First Class Monti (Which happened on the Kunar/Nuristan border in Gowardesh Valley). Has there been heavy fighting in other provinces? Of course but I think this is proof of the gravity of RC East and how it should have been the focus of the surge. With the massing of forces that we’ve talked about in the past (The last part of an ambush I was in had 60-70 fighters but combined with the other two TICs we got into it totalled to about a 100 and I was just on a PRT) against army units and the terrain I think N2KL should’ve been the focus of the surge as opposed to RC-South. The whole situation out there is truly tragic. ”

Tragic indeed.  But I’m still not convinced that Kunar / Nuristan should have been a sole focus of the surge.  Had it been, Now Zad, which was an R&R area for Taliban, Marjah, Garmsir, Musa Qala, Sangin and other areas would have withstood the reflexive bulge of fighters had we cleared RC East.  What I did recommend, however, is that [a] the Marines send more men to Now Zad instead of send them on wasteful MEUs, [b] the Marines move on to RC East after initial clearing operations were completed, [c] and more Soldiers and Marines be sent to Afghanistan, including to the Nuristan and Kunar Provinces.  Any reading of my Pech River Valley shows the attention I have recommended for RC East as well as Helmand and Kandahar.

But what I am thoroughly convinced of is that the report that the nomination for MoH got “lost” is a lie.  I don’t believe it.  If the Army awarded an MoH to Swenson, they would have impugned not only the self-serving screw-ups working at Joyce that fateful and horrible day (who denied artillery support because it might harm noncombatants while allowing white phosphorous to hide their retreat), it would reflect badly on the rules of engagement promulgated by Stanley McChrystal.  As I’ve pointed out before, culpability isn’t an either-or in this instance, it is both-and.  Both the men at Joyce and Stanley McChrystal are culpable for the deaths at Ganjgal.  They should all be in Leavenworth.  But as pointed out by one commenter, “The real reason those officers were not Court Martialed is they “wear the ring” of the Army Service Acadamy, that is they are “ring knockers”, this is a direct insult to those in command who wear the ring but shirk from their duty’s. You shall never ever see a “ring knocker” critized (sic) much less punished for “crimes” committed by other “ring knockers” Why do you think Will Swenson resigned??. He tesifiefed (sic) against the “ring knockers” and was extremely critical of their lack of action, his career was esentially (sic) ended, do not believe otherwise.”

There is more troubling information concerning the degree to which Swenson’s and Dakota Meyers’ accounts cohere.  This must be worked out.  More investigation must be done, and the truth must not be allowed to be buried, or just as bad, left untold.  But part of this truth is just how this MoH recommendation got “lost” … er, trashed.

Prior:

Reprimands in Marine Deaths in Ganjgal Engagement (highly recommended for the comments of family members of veterans who perished at Ganjgal)

AR 15-6 Investigation of Marine Deaths in Kunar Province

More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement

Taliban Ambush in Eastern Kunar Kills Four Marines

A Different Perspective On Rules Of Engagement And McChrystal?

BY Herschel Smith
2 years 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.

McChrystal, SOF Raids and Now Zad

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Tim Lynch weighs in on insurgent networks:

Nothing will sour the morale of combat troops faster then the realization that the commander at the top receives frequent visits from the Good Idea Fairy.   Which is a good start point for explaining why  General Stanley A McChrystal took to the pages of Foreign Policy last week to explain the unexplainable.  The story starts with McChrystal’s observation that the SF tier 1 guys found al Qaeda difficult to collect, fix and target because they were so decentralized.  So McChrystal made up his  own “network” and his centralized, vertically integrated, fixed chain of command network beat the AQI with their horizontally integrated decentralized chain of command.  I’m not buying that about Iraq but the focus of the article was how this genius system was implemented in Afghanistan by the regular military and what do you know the “mo better” network has since delivered us the current spate of good news about the Taliban getting tired of fighting.

The article linked above and all the other recent reports stress that the rift between the Taliban fighters and their leaders who are safely ensconced in Pakistan stems from the losses being inflicted on them in the Helmand and Kandahar Provinces.  The pressure being brought to bear on the fighting Taliban has very little (if anything) to do with the nighttime high speed low drag tier 1 special forces raids designed to “decapitate” Taliban leadership.  The whole decapitation strategy is suspect as numerous observers have noted over these many years of SOF raiding and I ask again if somehow a military adversary managed to “decapitate” our leadership would we be weaker or stronger? …

HVT raids do produce results but it seems to me that what has brought the fighting Taliban to their knees is hard fighting infantry who have moved in with the people and deprived the villains of maneuver room while killing ever increasing numbers of them using ROE completly different from the horseshit inflicted on them by McChrystal.

So let’s talk about this for a few minutes.  Just occasionally we are enriched by someone who has both location and smarts – or shall we say, good judgment.  Nir Rosen, who was always and remains a jerk, had location.  He was also embedded with the Taliban.  I wasn’t impressed, and said so.  I thought he was a jerk then, and I was proven right. Whether I have good judgment is up to my readers, but I certainly don’t have location.  Michael Yon now has location again, and he also has good judgment.  Tim Lynch has both as well.  If you really want to know not only what is going on in Afghanistan but how to interpret it, read Tim’s work.  It’s that good.  Really.  Read Michael Yon, then read Tim Lynch.  Between them you will usually find what you need to give clear perspective.

Tim expressed doubt that the tooth fairy ideas expounded by McChrystal worked in Iraq or Afghanistan like McChrystal claims.  Let me be more blunt.  He sees the world myopically.  So the insurgent and counterinsurgent can operate according to swarm theory.  They can engage in distributed operations where authority is pressed downward.  So what?  We already knew this.  McChrystal seems to advocate the idea that it was the HVT raids that won the campaign in Iraq.  How what he did with a few operators differed from what infantry did all over Iraq from 2004 – 2008 isn’t explained.  And I know something of the hell the boys of 2-6 went through in Fallujah in 2007, and they did it without SOF operators.  Didn’t need them, didn’t want them.  They would have been in the way.

[Here I should VERY BRIEFLY share a story.  My son was on post and a band of un-uniformed SOF troopers came through Fallujah on the way to Ramadi to pick up some bad guy, driving an unmarked vehicle, throwing dust as they drove, and they were stopped by my son.  He told them, "If you ever, ever come through my AO again un-uniformed, and in an unmarked vehicle, driving like a bat out of hell, I will light you up like a f***ing Christmas tree, and then laugh about it as they pick up the body parts."  And the SOF troopers didn't come through Fallujah again on 2-6's watch.]

If my friend Gian Gentile casts doubt on the surge narrative, I cast doubt on the HVT narrative.  Neither won the campaign in Iraq.  Hard core infantry operations in the cities, villages and countryside of Iraq, along with all of the things discussed in McChrystal’s paper done by all of infantry and not just SOF, won the campaign.  And finally, yes, along with Tim, I think that the micromanagement by McChrystal’s staff was horseshit.  Plain and simple.

Tim goes on to discuss the tactics that won Iraq, and that will win in Afghanistan if we turn the troops loose.

A great example of this would be Naw Zad which is currently home to the headquarters of Charlie Company 1st Battalion 8th Marines.  The rest of the battalion is handling Musa Quala which, like Marjah, was infested with Taliban but is now safe enough for the battalion commander to walk around the bazaar without body armor and helmet.  The Captain at Naw Zad (and he’s there on his own because he’s that good) is surrounded by Taliban.  He has an area of influence which he is constantly expanding and he does this with aggressive patrolling.  He has the clearance to shoot 60mm mortars and run rotary wing CAS guns (Cobra or Apache gunships employing their guns only; rocket or Hellfires have to be cleared) without coordinating with his battalion COC.  He has no problems at all with the current rules of engagement and has never been denied fires when he has asked for them.

Tim goes on to discuss issues of weight for the Marines.

I was able to spend a lot of time talking with the officers and men currently serving in Naw Zad and here is what they bitch about:  They don’t like the weight they are forced to carry and strongly feel the use of  body armor should be determined by the mission and enemy.  Wearing it in blistering heat or while climbing the massive mountains is so physically debilitating that they have felt on several occasions that they were unable to defend themselves. Many of their Marines are suffering chronic stress fractures, low back problems as well as hip problems caused by carrying loads in excess of 130 pounds daily.  ”We’re fighting the Mothers of America” said one; if we lose a Marine and he was not wearing everything in the inventory to protect him that becomes the issue.  Trying to explain that we have removed the body armor to reduce the chances of being shot is a losers game because you can’t produce data quantifying the reduction in gun shot wounds for troops who remain alert and are able to move fast due to a lighter load.

I have mixed feelings on this, as my son’s life was saved by his ESAPI plate.  But as readers know, I have griped about battlefield weight as well.  Remember this Marine carrying a mortar plate along with the rest of his gear?

Whatever is done or can be done about battle space weight, Tim’s discussion about injuries is sure to be ignored by advocates of women in combat.  I have pointed out before the difference between the Army mentality (mechanized infantry) versus Marines (foot borne infantry), but even this breaks down in places like Korengal where those Soldiers may as well have been Marines.  But I have pointed out that the Russian campaign in Afghanistan was plagued by a huge number of lower extremity injuries to women, and if these injuries (including higher up into the whole body, i.e., hips) are happening to the most physically fit troops on earth right now in Afghanistan, does anyone really, seriously want to advocate the notion that women can do this with 130 pounds of gear?  Did God not design men and women differently, and would we not want to celebrate this diversity rather than try to expunge it?  What kind of man imagines gender-neutral physical features, and for what reason?

And speaking of Now Zad, make sure to catch Tim’s pictures documenting his time in Now Zad.  He observes:

Fox company 2nd Battalion 7th Marines (Fox 2/7) arrived in Naw Zad to reinforce the Brits in late 2008 and were able to expand the security bubble but not by much.  The Brits, Estonians and Marines fought side by side to expel the Taliban from this fertile valley but were hampered by restrictive ROE pushed down from on high by senior officers in Kabul who lacked common sense and experience at counterinsurgency warfare. The Marines and their allies lost a lot of men because they did not have the mass or firepower to do the job correctly.  Way back then there was a lone voice in the blogsphere pleading with all who would listen to free up the combat power and let the Marines in Naw Zad fight.  His name is Herschel Smith and his posts at the Captains Journal can be found here.  It is worth your time to read them all.

This statement by Tim is, quite honestly, very moving for me.  I’m a fairly rough and unemotional man, but I recall with significant emotion my time studying the boys in Now Zad, their living in what they termed hobbit holes, the multiple trauma doctors with them due to the massive loss of limbs and other traumas suffered by undermanned Marines, and so on, until I almost couldn’t take it any more.  Tim gives us a picture of the Dahaneh pass, and I know that my good friend John Bernard lost his son near Dahaneh: “KIA (Dahaneh 08/14/09) and who is now safe and resting in the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I miss him!”  I know that you do John.  Many loved ones were lost near this AO while massive flotillas full of Marines were going from port to port as “force in readiness” for God only knows what.

Reprimands in Marine Deaths in Ganjgal Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Recall that in 2009 three Marines and a Navy Corpsman approached the remote Kunar village of Ganjgal where they were ambushed in what was surely a planned incident.  At the time even the women and children could be seen firing weapons, spotting or carrying munitions.  The Marines made repeated calls for artillery and air support over the next couple of hours, with support denied due to the fact that the authorizing Army officers could not verify that noncombatants wouldn’t be harmed.  We know this because a McClatchy reporter was with the Marines.  In other words, whatever obfuscation that the Army can throw at this incident cannot supersede the conclusions that we can draw directly from McClatchy’s report.

And obfuscation came.  The Army did an investigation that concluded, among other things, that the officers were out of the command center for decision-making during this engagement.  But in fact they were out only some of the time, and did indeed refuse on multiple occasions to authorize supporting fires.  They also had the presence of mind to authorize white phosphorus rounds to provide smoke and thus give cover for retreat, so they knew about the danger.  They just didn’t authorize support.

The families have pursued a conclusion to this, and they may have finally gotten it.

The Army “severely reprimanded” two of the three officers cited for negligence after a flawed mission in eastern Afghanistan resulted in five U.S. deaths, according to a congressman who pushed for the information’s release.

The Army officers were cited for poor planning and oversight of a Sept. 8, 2009, operation in Ganjgal, a remote village near the Pakistan border with Kunar province. Three Marines and a corpsman were killed on the battlefield after they were repeatedly denied air and artillery support while pinned down by more than 100 insurgents. A soldier died the following month of medical complications related to wounds he suffered in the ambush.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Army recently shared with him documents indicating two of the three officers cited last year in a joint Army-Marine Corps investigation were deemed primarily responsible for the mission’s failures and given reprimands, likely career killers.

“There was nothing else we could do,” Jones said of the discipline. “This was a very tragic situation that never should have happened.”

Jones, whose congressional district includes thousands of Marines at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps air stations New River and Cherry Point, got involved in October after family members of the fallen troops expressed disgust that the Army refused to disclose whether anyone was held accountable for mistakes that led to their loved ones’ deaths. On Jan. 28, he sent letters to the families of each service member informing them what he learned.

Army officials declined to comment on the disciplinary action. The officers are entitled to privacy unless they are charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, said Col. Thomas Collins, an Army spokesman.

The Ganjgal investigation, conducted by Army Col. Richard Hooker and Marine Col. James Werth, determined that the “negligent” leadership of three officers at nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce contributed “directly to the loss of life which ensued.” They refused direct calls for help from U.S. forces on the ground and failed to notify higher commands that they had troops under fire, the investigation found.

The officers were members of Task Force Chosin, a unit comprising soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y. The military has not released their names, but they are likely captains or majors.

Killed in the battle were four members of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, out Okinawa, Japan: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; Gunnery Sgts. Aaron Kenefick, 30; and Edwin Johnson, 31; and Hospitalman 3rd Class James Layton, 22. Hours after the battle began, they were found in a ditch shot to death, stripped of gear and weapons.

A former corporal, Dakota Meyer, is nominated for the Medal of Honor for charging into the kill zone to find the four military trainers and carry them to safety.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, 41, survived the battle despite suffering several gunshot wounds. He died Oct. 7, 2009, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after his body rejected a blood transfusion he received in Afghanistan, said his widow, Charlene.

Charlene Westbrook questioned why the third officer cited for negligence wasn’t reprimanded, and said she is frustrated the Army hasn’t explained the rationale for its disciplinary decisions.

“We were searching for answers, not for the same thing we’ve been told before,” she said. “It’s very frustrating and, again, another betrayal, I feel.”

Collins said the families were provided complete, redacted copies of the investigation report last year. There is no indication they were ever promised an update on disciplinary actions, he said.

Reprimands in the Ganjgal case were delivered after similar discipline was rescinded last year for mistakes made in Wanat, Afghanistan, during an ambush July 13, 2008. Nine soldiers died and 27 were wounded in the battle.

Perhaps the families have partial conclusion (and I confess, I didn’t know until this report that Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook had also perished) .  I had previously recommended that the Army field grade and staff level officers involved in this incident find a different line of work.  And now they must do exactly that.  I had said that the source of this problem – rules of engagement and micromanaging the military – would not be targeted, and General McChrystal wouldn’t even so much as be mentioned in the AR 15-6.  I was right on all accounts.

When he took over the campaign in Afghanistan, McChrystal quickly issued a severely debilitating tactical directive, but in fact added to the cultural milieu with his own interpretation:

“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.”

As for micromanaging the military, when the Marines first entered Marjah in the Helmand Province, General Rodriguez, then second in command in Afghanistan, decided that he wanted to micromanage a completely separate command structure, that of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF).  “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.”

The officers on duty that fateful day the Marines were killed in Gamjgal were responsible for their decisions.  It gives me no joy to report or comment on their demise as officers in the U.S. Army.  But the climate of micromanagement of forces in theater set in motion by Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez was also responsible for the incident at Ganjgal.  Incidents can (and in fact most often do) have more than a single root cause.

I will forever hold General McChrystal responsible for the deaths of three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier in this incident.  Until he admits to the debilitating nature of his command and visits these families to watch them weep, this incident is unresolved, and the families have no closure.  He can join as many boards of directors as he likes.  There is unfinished business, and the ghosts of four Marines and a Soldier are watching.

Prior:

Taliban Ambush in Eastern Kunar Kills Four U.S. Marines

More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement

AR 15-6 Investigation of Marine Deaths in Kunar Province

Concerning Senior Leadership in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 12 months ago

LTC Tad Sholtis seems a bit indignant over how the past several months in Afghanistan have turned out.  So be it.  I encourage everyone to visit his site and determine for themselves what they think, since I will not tell them.  What I will say is that I think LTC Sholtis’ biggest problem has been his commander, General McChrystal.  My problems with his tenure – emphasis on HVT hits, denigration of so-called general purpose forces, highly restrictive ROE, and micromanagement of the campaign – are well rehearsed and I won’t repeat the detail I have laid out.  But that doesn’t prevent me from reiterating them via other means and using other sources.  One particularly depressing but interesting comment comes to us from the Small Wars Journal blog.

Take with the caveat that this is how it appears to me, and I’m near the bottom of the pyramid, but the previous commander didn’t seem to think very highly of the conventional force. He was enamored with SOF, and thought they were the only professionals– it would be SOF that’s out running the hills pulling triggers. That’s why there is the over restrictive ROE and stacks of directives that keep the bulk of the force pinned to population centers and highways that are relativetly safe and stable. The bulk of CF have been reacting to contact on the highway while a really small group of guys that aren’t nearly as good as the beards and t-shirts would have you think have been taking the fight to the enemy. Can another General turn it around? I don’t know, but another General has to be better than the last one.

It’s a lot bigger though– We have our “partners” in ISAF that we have to give equal play to, that are bringing in all of their senior leaders who want a spot at the table. We’ve been tossing limited manpower at dozens of competing and often overlapping LOEs. I read the same product produced ten times by ten different teams…and half of those were civilians.

Probably most damaging though, and the reason I’m leaning towards hopeless rather than hard, is the lack of ground truth. IO campaings targeting illiterate people, reports that are purely for the self aggrendization of staff members who have no seat at the table, staffs and command that serve no purpose at all, and complete lack of accountability or understanding by decision makers at all levels above battalion. July has been the worst month of the war, and June was the hardest before that– and in the storyboards of the VBIEDs and underbelly IEDs we actually have the gall to write that because the enemy is able to take out complete vehicles, that they must be desperation attacks…. All those Taliban flags coming being flown by the people of Kandahar City is because the intimidation campaign, the last gasp of enemy IO. WE’RE WINNING.

Yes, General McChrystal is conflicted over the use of the so-called general purpose forces.  I gave LTC Sholtis more than one chance to say something good – anything – about the Marines and the MAGTF command structure and the job that they had accomplished in Helmand.  He did not.  The troops are confined to FOBs for a reason.  General McChrystal and his staff propose that they believe in population-centric counterinsurgency, but they never trusted the troops to do anything more than provide general policing of the population and coupling with and training of the indigenous forces.

The military campaign is only military for the SOF, who are disconnected from the population except from the ubiquitous raids and hits on HVTs.  This trust in the SOF and mistrust in the balance of the forces can be seen in a comment left at The Captain’s Journal just recently.

Calling off the airstrike does not surprise me one bit even though it should be criminal. My brother is an AC-130 gunship pilot who just got back from Afghanistan. They were called off of targets in the open with no troops or buildings around. This caused him and his crew a great deal of frustration as they were flying all night missions and doing nothing but calling in contacts.

What is interesting though he was there for a short after McCrystal left and suddenly the ROE was liberalized.

It’s good to be able to use the very comments left by readers to add to the dialogue.  My only contribution is that I know things about my readers that you don’t.  It’s easy to misconstrue the objection to the restrictive ROE.  While it’s true that I and many others hold that the highly restrictive rules accomplish exactly the opposite of their intended purpose, that’s only part of it.  The ROE fits into a larger framework of micromanagement of the campaign.  Approval of every jot and tittle of the job is the domain of megalomaniacs.  Until we unleash the forces to chase the enemy, we don’t even stand a chance of winning the campaign.

More Rules of Engagement Examples from Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
4 years ago

From Time:

An episode last month illustrates the quandary American troops face. In early June, on the southern edge of Kandahar city, a small Army convoy drove into a nighttime ambush. Within seconds, a turret gunner in one of the vehicles was hit in the arm. Muzzle flashes pierced the dark, alerting fellow troops to where the shots were coming from. But, thinking that they had to clearly identify the triggerman before firing back, they waited before retaliating, even as rounds of hostile fire poured in. Only after an officer radioed back with the go-ahead did the Americans return heavy fire. By then, the militants had melted away.

The wounded soldier, Private First Class Trevor Longcore, of Shadow Troop, 1-71 Cavalry, caught a lucky break: he wasn’t hit by a bullet but by a piece of shrapnel that had apparently ricocheted off his vehicle’s armor. But a month into their deployment into Afghanistan, he and his compatriots are still frustrated by the constant heat-of-the-moment uncertainty about returning fire. For many troops, the strict rules of engagement — overlaid with tactical directives meant to limit civilian casualties — are a source of confusion and, they contend, are putting U.S. soldiers in greater danger. “We have all of these stupid rules that in the end wind up hurting more people. I mean, hesitation can mean death out here,” says one disgruntled soldier serving in the volatile south …

In Marjah, the desert town in central Helmand province where U.S. Marines are battling a resurgent Taliban, roving groups of militants on foot and motorbike take potshots at the Americans when they are not setting up ambushes and IEDs. Yet even if Marines see an attack taking shape around them, the current rules of engagement mandate that they cannot shoot unless they are first shot at. The insurgents know this, so they often “drop and go”: firing from a distance, then abandoning their weapons. Sometimes Marines never get a single shot off in defense, an exercise in restraint that is especially taxing for the American military’s hardiest warriors.

McChrystal’s advocates argue that McChrystal’s tactical directive was misunderstood and applied too restrictively at lower levels of command (the rules have been distorted as they pass down the chain of command).  But that dog won’t hunt.  His tactical directive remains available for viewing, and his words set the context for its application: “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.”  The reader can make up his own mind.

But without weighing in again on the restrictive nature of the ROE in Afghanistan, I will only observe one more time that while the rules for engagement of the enemy in Iraq were too restrictive, or so I argued, they were not the same as those in Afghanistan.  Period.  There is a difference, and you can judge for yourself how successful each campaign has been.  For a reminder of how insurgents were engaged in Iraq, see Recon by Fire (or what some commenters called the “Drake Shoot”).

The Long Term Counterinsurgency Work in Marjah

BY Herschel Smith
4 years ago

From Financial Times:

Tracing his finger over a map of Marjah, Lance Corporal Paul Horchler sketched the route ahead. He would lead his marines along a canal, past the spot where a buried bomb had exploded the day before, then down a track nicknamed “ambush alley”.

His patrol was almost guaranteed to succeed. Either the Americans would have a chance to ask the locals where the Taliban were, or the insurgents would reveal themselves by shooting at them. Whatever happened, they stood to learn.

After trudging for an hour down a path flanked by fields and scattered adobe houses, seemingly deserted in the midday heat, the marines found a man willing to talk. He said he had seen four Taliban fighters at a nearby bazaar 30 minutes earlier.

“The Taliban, they’re probably watching us. I guarantee they are watching us,” said Lance-Corporal Monty Buchanan. “Whoever’s in the area will decide what they want to do, if they want to hit us or not.”

This is the daily grind faced by US marines in Marjah almost five months after they seized the town in Nato’s biggest operation of the nine-year Afghan war.

The offensive in southern Helmand province was billed as a centrepiece of General Stanley McChrystal’s strategy of pouring in US forces to protect the population from insurgents, but the climate of fear remains palpable.

Even before the general’s forced resignation last month over the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which he and his aides poured derision on the Obama administration questions were growing about the strategy.

General David Petraeus, who assumed command of the international force in Afghanistan on Sunday, is a leading US theorist in countering guerrilla warfare and has pledged continuity in strategy, although he has not ruled out adjusting its implementation.

L Cpl Horchler’s four-hour ramble past lavender fields and sunflowers outside Marjah was a lesson in the difficulties not only of separating the population from the insurgents, but in telling them apart. Many fighters operate within their communities, rendering the distinction even less clear.

Most of Marjah appeared to have deemed it too hot to be outside when the marines and Afghan soldiers set out into what felt like an immense vista for such a small patrol to cover; one that afforded almost infinite hiding places.

Marines who seized Marjah from the Taliban in a blaze of publicity are now facing almost daily ambushes staged by attackers skilled at burying home-made mines or hiding them under bunches of dried poppy stalks.

The patrol flinched when a rat-tat-tat echoed across a field like the sound of distant machinegun fire: it turned out to be a creaking water pump. Moments later, L Cpl Horchler, 22, aimed his rifle at what appeared to be a figure traversing a distant sand dune on a motorbike, suspecting he might be a Taliban spotter. The man vanished over the ridge.

A gunshot snapped the air and again the marines started. One of the Afghan soldiers had fired a warning to halt a minibus they wanted to search. A patch of disturbed earth on the track prompted a diversion for fear it concealed a bomb.

The informant’s compound felt safer than the road, although not much. One of the Afghan troops urged L Cpl Horchler to interrogate the owner of the shop where the insurgents had been seen. He refused, loathe to risk endangering his source.

L Cpl Horchler’s men returned to base unscathed, but a second patrol would be attacked on the same route a few hours later by insurgents armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

As Lance Corporal Mark Reno, 23, said: “I’m sure we’ve shaken hands with them on a daily basis and not even known who they were.”

Analysis & Commentary

In McChrystal Calls Marjah a Bleeding Ulcer, I laid out some hard questions for my readers.

Did General McChrystal not cover the basics of classical counterinsurgency doctrine with his civilian bosses?  Did he or any of his reports mislead the administration into believing that Marjah or any other town in Afghanistan would be pacified in 90 days?  Did he or his reports – or anyone in the administration – really believe that this government ex machina we brought to Marjah would work?

It now appears that the answers to the first two questions above is no, and the answer to the last one which is yes.  The surprise at how long Marjah is taking betrays an actual belief that they could shout presto, clap their hands and make Marjah safe, secure and serene.

Forgotten are the long years of counterinsurgency work to win the Anbar Province, and in its place was substituted bare, unsubstantiated doctrine.  That there was surprise among McChrystal’s staff and the Pentagon is a pointer to harder points that need to be made; they see the world in a childlike fashion.

If nothing else comes from the Rolling Stone expose on McChrystal and his staff, we learn about the immaturity of McChrystal’s staff and even McChrystal himself.  The false beliefs concerning Marjah are in the books, but one example (out of many) comes to us by way of anecdote.

Even in his new role as America’s leading evangelist for counterinsurgency, McChrystal retains the deep-seated instincts of a terrorist hunter. To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. “You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight,” McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he’ll add, “I’m going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though.” In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people,” McChrystal recently conceded.

Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the U.S. military has ever encountered in a war zone. It’s “insurgent math,” as he calls it – for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. “For a while,” says one U.S. official, “the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a ‘civ cas’ incident.” The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There’s talk of creating a new medal for “courageous restraint,” a buzzword that’s unlikely to gain much traction in the gung-ho culture of the U.S. military.

But however strategic they may be, McChrystal’s new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. “Bottom line?” says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing.”

We have discussed the issue of a campaign against high value targets conducted by SOF.  I don’t believe in it.  I don’t think it works to curtail the insurgency.  But besides considerations of the utility of the strategy (and it is a strategy, not a tactic), there is the issue of maintenance of troop morale.  McChrystal set up a military cultural milieu in which direct action kinetics was relegated (or reserved) to SOF, while the so-called general purpose forces were essentially told to be policemen, and given rules of engagement that are more restrictive than those for police departments in the U.S.  Nothing McChrystal could have done would have worked so thoroughly to bust troop morale.

McChrystal’s vision is why he worked so poorly with the Marines and within the context of the MAGTF.  The Corps doesn’t buy into McChrystal’s bifurcation, and (properly) wants more control of goings-on within their battle space than McChrystal was willing to give them.  I gave Tad Sholtis (McChrystal’s PAO) multiple chances to say something – anything – positive about the MAGTF and the job the Marines were doing in Helmand.  No such praise came, and my communications with them were marked mostly by lip biting and equivocation.

I don’t know what the era of Petraeus will bring, and if he doesn’t immediately press authority down the chain of command, unshackle the enlisted men, reduce the rules of engagement with the enemy, ban PowerPoint presentations, unleash air power, get Soldiers off of the several huge bases they’re on, press for more distributed operations, and give commanders complete control over their battle space, then we will lose.  Either way, for the last year, the children have been in charge.

The Side Effects of the Afghanistan Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

From Strategy Page;

After a year of concentrated effort, NATO forces in Afghanistan have reduced civilian casualties, caused by foreign troops, 44.4 percent. There were 7.8 percent fewer battles even involving civilians, and 52 percent fewer civilians hurt by foreign troops. The most striking reduction (82 percent) was in civilian casualties from air strikes. All this is calculated by comparing the last three months with the same period from last year. All this despite nearly twice as many foreign troops in action, and much more combat. Meanwhile, civilian losses from Taliban action are up 36 percent.

Many Afghans are not happy with this policy, with foreign troops increasingly encountering angry Afghan civilians, who demand that NATO act more decisively in pursuing and killing Taliban gunman. Even if it puts Afghan civilians at risk. This is an unexpected side effect to the change in NATO rules of engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan. The ROE change was partly in response to popular (or at least media) anger at civilians killed by American smart bombs. As a result of the new ROE, it became much more difficult to get permission drop a smart bomb when there might be civilians nearby. Now American commanders have to decide who they shall respond too; Afghan civilians asking for relief from Taliban oppression, or Taliban influenced media condemning the U.S. for any Afghan civilians killed, or thought to be killed, by American firepower. What to do? So far, the decision often favors the survival of the Taliban.

Unexpected?  This was only unexpected among dolts.  I said as much ten months ago (“officials” have admitted that the new Afghanistan ROE have opened up new space for the insurgents”), nine months ago (“the Taliban will surround themselves with noncombatants, in the end making it more dangerous for everyone”), eight months ago (“giving the insurgents safe haven amongst the domiciles of villages sends the opposite message than we intend”), seven months ago (“give chase to and kill the enemy as the surest way to win the hearts and minds of the locals, and thus win the campaign”), and four months ago (“I had predicted that these rules would have the opposite affect from that intended, i.e., that they would fail to prevent noncombatant deaths and might even cause more than if we were to implement a more robust set of ROE or simply leave the rules unchanged”).

Let’s not hear any more about unintended consequences or unexpected side effects of the ROE.  I’ve said plenty and issued the appropriate warnings.  The slow to learn haven’t been paying attention, and perhaps should never have been entrusted with the responsibility they have been given.

Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) is calling for a hearing on the ROE, and General Petraeus might be preparing to modify the rules of engagement, but I’ll take a wait and see approach on this.  The issue doesn’t pertain to whether there is such a thing as ROE, but whether Generals who should be talking strategy are issuing tactical directives to Lance Corporals and Sergeants in the field under fire and requiring approval of staff level officers a hundred miles away in order to bring combined arms to bear on the enemy.  It has to do with micromanagement of the campaign.  It’s simply something staff and flag level officers should not be doing.  The campaign will be won or lost based on empowerment of the troops down the chain of command.

As I chewed the cud over the dismissal of General McChrystal over the weekend, it occurred to me that there was more than just the irrational devotion to a single military doctrine to blame for the fiasco that is Afghanistan (see endnote).  General McChrystal worked much of his career in Special Operations Forces where he micromanaged many things, including at the tactical level.  General McChrystal was never the right man for this job, regardless of whether he has been a good commander of SOF.  This isn’t a commentary on the man, but rather, a commentary on the situation.  It’s time for the new rules to go.  They were a bad idea from the beginning, and nothing useful or constructive ever came from them.

Endnote: I do not support a singular focus in counterinsurgency (such as population-centric COIN), but do support multiple, simultaneous and equally viable lines of effort.  Also, my view of Special Operations Forces is that SOCOM should be abolished.  Not SF or SOF, but the separate command structure for these groups.

General McChrystal Recalled: What’s Important About This?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

General Stanley McChrystal and his staff have allowed close access by Michael Hastings writing for Rolling Stone, and the report contains somewhat embarrassing information for the Obama administration.  You can read for yourself and judge whether the views expressed by the General and his staff rise to the level of insubordination, and if so, what should be done about it.  Frankly, I don’t think it matters very much.  But when considered as part of the general warp and woof of their relationship, it’s a little late to be complaining about how dense the administration officials are, regardless of how true that view is.  Recall that this conversation took place.

Inside the Oval Office, Obama asked Petraeus, “David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?”

“Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the ANA [Afghan National Army] in that time frame,” Petraeus replied.

“Good. No problem,” the president said. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?”

“Yes, sir, in agreement,” Petraeus said.

“Yes, sir,” Mullen said.

The president was crisp but informal. “Bob, you have any problems?” he asked Gates, who said he was fine with it.

The president then encapsulated the new policy: in quickly, out quickly, focus on Al Qaeda, and build the Afghan Army. “I’m not asking you to change what you believe, but if you don’t agree with me that we can execute this, say so now,” he said. No one said anything.

“Tell me now,” Obama repeated.

“Fully support, sir,” Mullen said.

“Ditto,” Petraeus said.

General McChrystal had to be aware of the stipulations when he took the assignment.  The time to have told the administration that commitment to a counterinsurgency campaign would take another half decade or more and that military force would have to be applied was a year ago.  But in the focus on not missing the forest for the trees, it’s important not to miss the tress for looking at the forest.  At least, the important trees should be studied.

There is such a tree in this report in The Washington Post that deserves our utmost attention.

A few weeks ago, according to the magazine, the general traveled to a small outpost in Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan, to meet with a unit of soldiers reeling from the loss of a comrade, 23-year-old Cpl. Michael Ingram.

The corporal was killed in a booby-trapped house that some of the unit’s commanders had unsuccessfully sought permission to blow up.

One soldier at the outpost showed Hastings, who was traveling with the general, a written directive instructing troops to “patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourself with lethal force.”

During a tense meeting with Ingram’s platoon, one sergeant tells McChrystal: “Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we’re losing, sir.”

McChrystal has championed a counterinsurgency strategy that prioritizes protecting the population as a means to marginalize and ultimately defeat the insurgency. Because new rules sharply restrict the circumstances under which airstrikes and other lethal operations that have resulted in civilian casualties can be conducted, some soldiers say the strategy has left them more exposed.

When you cannot patrol in areas where you think you might engage in kinetic operations because of the highly restrictive rules, you know that the campaign won’t last much longer.  Similarly, another NCO believes that the rules of engagement are too prohibitive to achieve sustained tactical success.  He reports that villagers are quite literally laughing at U.S. troop casualties, and that they cannot even obtain approval for illumination rounds to assist in withdrawal during firefights.

When NCOs begin to give these kinds of reports, we know that there is something badly wrong with the campaign on a much deeper level than mere sniping between civilian and military authorities.  We are losing the campaign in Afghanistan, and recalling General McChrystal won’t change that.  Much deeper changes need to be made, and a much deeper commitment should become evident by the administration, or men will die for a failing cause.  The time to make these changes has almost run out.


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