Archive for the 'Micromanaging the Military' Category



Reprimands in Marine Deaths in Ganjgal Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 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
4 years, 2 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 II

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 3 months ago

Via CBS News:

To the U.S. soldiers getting pounded with thunderous mortar rounds in their combat outpost near Kandahar, it seemed like a legitimate request: allow them to launch retaliatory mortar shells or summon an airstrike against their attackers. The incoming fire was landing perilously close to a guard station, and the soldiers, using a high-powered camera, could clearly see the insurgents shooting.

The response from headquarters — more than 20 miles away — was terse. Permission denied. Battalion-level officers deemed the insurgents too close to a cluster of mud-brick houses, perhaps with civilians inside.

Although the insurgents stopped firing before anybody was wounded, the troops were left seething.

“This is not how you fight a war, at least not in Kandahar,” said a soldier at the outpost who described the incident, which occurred last month, on the condition of anonymity. “We’ve been handcuffed by our chain of command.”

[ ... ]

Despite claims from some relatives of military personnel killed in Afghanistan that the directive has limited the ability of troops to defend themselves, the officials said a review by the U.S. military of every combat fatality over the past year has found no evidence that the rules restricted the use of lifesaving firepower.

“We have not found a single situation where a soldier has lost his life because he was not allowed to protect himself,” one of the officials said.

If troops are in imminent danger, there is no restriction on the use of airstrikes or mortars. “The rules of engagement provide an absolute right of self-defense,” the official said.

For troops on the ground … the directive has lowered their morale and limited their ability to pursue insurgents. They note that Taliban fighters seem to understand the new rules and have taken to sniping at troops from inside homes or retreating inside houses after staging attacks.

“Minimizing civilian casualties is a fine goal, but should it be the be-all and end-all of the policy?” said a junior Army officer in southern Afghanistan. “If we allow soldiers to die in Afghanistan at the hands of a leader who says, ‘We’re going to protect civilians rather than soldiers,’ what’s going to happen on the ground? The soldiers are not going to execute the mission to the best of their ability. They won’t put their hearts into the mission. That’s the kind of atmosphere we’re building.”

The principal problem, senior officials say, is that U.S. and allied units across Afghanistan have carried out the directive in ways that are more restrictive than McChrystal intended. Fearful of career-ending sanctions if they violate the order, commanders at every subordinate level down the chain have tightened the rules themselves, often adding their own stipulations to the use of air and mortar strikes.

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. But before the order was given to the Marines, the British-run regional headquarters in southern Afghanistan amended the language to include any strikes “near” houses, according to two U.S. sources familiar with the incident.

The issue of divergent and overly-restrictive “interpretations” of the ROE being given down the chain of command is a red herring.  The issue is a diversion from the real issue of overly restrictive rules and micromanagement of the campaign at the highest levels of command.

In More Rules of Engagement Examples from Afghanistan, I observed:

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.

As for warriors who have lost their lives to the rules of engagement, I give you three Marines and a Navy Corpsman, and for me, General McChrystal will always be responsible for their deaths.  Others may have participated by their incompetence, but it all began with McChrystal.

But the real addition to the knowledge base for ROE in this example comes by way of prissy excuse and demur.  Note that the report attempts to exonerate McChrystal’s direct report, General Rodriguez by explaining how the rules got revised after issuance.  But here is the real question.  Why the hell is General Rodriguez second guessing Marines in the field in combat operations?

The real problem is not that the rules got twisted.  The real problem is that General Rodriguez took it upon himself to micromanage Marines who have successful combat experience from Iraq.  The Marines no more needed General Rodriguez at any point during this operation than they needed a business secretary in corporate America issuing orders to them.  Instead of providing logistics, materiel, equipment and resources, General Rodriguez made himself a nuisance to the operation.

This micromanagement is an increasing problem in the U.S. military, and it follows the American corporate model.  But it seems to have taken on gigantic proportions with General McChrystal, an aspect that needs to change now that he is gone.  Unfortunately, General Rodriguez is still around to meddle in affairs where he is not needed and is serving no useful purpose.

Postscript: General Rodriguez has been the subject of previous articles, specifically where he trotted out Army intelligence to decidedly inform us that there would be no 2008 spring offensive in Afghanistan, while I said that there would be, and it would be directed at logistics, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The reader can decide for himself who hit the target and who didn’t.

Lawyers in the Battle Space

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 months ago

Two and a half years ago, I wrote God in the Battle Space.  I cited the example of Lt. Col. Jason Bohm as exemplary of the kind of interaction with the population that engenders trust.  There is another presence in the battle space – that of lawyers.  To be sure, no one intends for there to be any deleterious affects from the presence of law school graduates in the battle space.  But equally as sure, their presence has complicated things.

MARJAH, Afghanistan—As Capt. Anthony Zinni monitored a live video feed from a Predator drone circling overhead, he spotted four men planting a booby trap in the middle of the road here.

For Capt. Zinni, one of the officers responsible for approving airstrikes in the nine-day-old battle for Marjah, it seemed like an easy call: The men were digging a hole alongside a road where a Marine supply convoy was scheduled to pass within hours. But just as he was about to give the order to strike, Capt. Zinni spotted even-smaller white figures on the video running along the path south of the canal.

Children. Maybe 50 feet from the men planting the booby trap. “It’s not a good shot,” Capt. Zinni said, ordering the Predator drone to delay the strike. “It’s not a good shot.”

The 45 minutes that followed help illustrate why it is taking coalition forces so long to secure this hotly contested part of Afghanistan …

When Capt. Zinni spotted the four men planting the booby trap on the afternoon of Feb. 17, the first thing he did was call his lawyer.

“Judge!” he yelled.

Capt. Matthew Andrew, judge advocate for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, advises the battalion about when it is legal to order the airstrikes. He examined the figures on the video feed closely. “I think you got it,” Capt. Andrew said, giving the OK for the strike.

Capt. Zinni, 35 years old, grew up among Marines—his father is retired Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East—and always seemed destined for the Corps.

The Marines watch almost constant video feeds from unmanned aircraft, including Predators armed with Hellfire missiles and piloted remotely by crews at an Air Force base near Las Vegas. The suspected insurgents were digging on a road that ran along the north bank of a wide canal, part of an elaborate irrigation system built with U.S. aid money in the 1950s.

Knowing that the Marine convoy was due to pass over the spot in a couple of hours added pressure to the decision about whether to strike.

Once Capt. Zinni spotted the children and called off the strike, Capt. Andrew loitered behind the Marines at the monitors, pondering the situation. “We have to separate the insurgents from the people,” he said. “If we just bomb the hell out of everything, we’ll have a hard time doing that.” But the Marjah battlefield was constantly changing, with insurgents and civilians often in close proximity.

“If we can ensure there aren’t any kids around, you have a good shot,” he told Capt. Zinni.

On a cot nearby, Lance Cpl. José Guzman-Berrios, a 19-year-old from Carolina, Puerto Rico, was monitoring chat messages pouring in from the Predator mission commander in Nevada. “Children are out of view 30 meters down the road walking west,” Lance Cpl. Guzman-Berrios read aloud.

Even though the children were out of view, the battalion operations officer, Maj. John Harris, worried they could be hit by the airstrike, erasing whatever goodwill the Marines were accumulating by ousting the Taliban. “The last thing I want to do is kill kids,” he said. “Once it’s confirmed there are no friendlies, it’s approved.”

The children, however, soon walked back into view on the screens, pacing along the path south of the canal.

Capt. Andrew suggested that a show-of-force—a loud, low pass by a helicopter or jet—might scare the men into bolting for the compound, or, at least, interrupt their work. “Or they might go into a field, and we may be able to kill them,” Maj. Harris added.

Capt. Zinni had seen this scenario before in Marjah. Insurgents using women and children for cover as they moved weapons or crossed open spaces into fighting positions in buildings. In this case, the captain was certain that the children were acting—either by their own volition or under coercion—as shields for the men planting the bomb.

The way the Taliban see it, he thought, they’d win either way: The Americans might hold their fire and allow them to plant a bomb unmolested. Or the Americans might kill a few civilians, a propaganda victory for an insurgent force increasingly adept at using the media to spread its message.

“We’re not going to be able to hit this,” Capt. Zinni concluded. He ordered the Predator pilot to keep an eye on the men. Maybe they’d lead the Marines back to their commander’s position. Or maybe they’d make a mistake and leave through an area clear of civilians.

Then came a chat message from the Predator mission commander in Las Vegas: “There are no more civilians in the area. Three people in the road at this time.”

“No children?” Maj. Harris said. “Strike ‘em.”

Capt. Alex Ramthun, a 31-year-old Harrier jump-jet pilot in charge of talking to the Predator pilot, passed him the order: “Strike approved, strike approved, strike approved.”

But the children returned. “Two children on the opposite side of the canal, approximately 15 meters,” came the message from Las Vegas.

The pilot aborted the attack run and continued to circle.

“It’s not worth the risk,” agreed Capt. Zinni. “They’re doing this on purpose. Wait for them to go out in a field.”

Capt. Ramthun relayed Capt. Zinni’s decision to the Predator pilot. “Shot is no longer authorized,” he said.

That evening, the scheduled Marine supply convoy rambled down the dirt road. Warned of the booby trap, the vehicles stopped short of the spot where the men were seen digging. The Marines removed a buried triggering device, set to detonate the explosives when a vehicle passed. As is often the case, the Taliban had been working in shifts, with one team responsible for digging the hole and planting the trigger, and another team detailed to bury and connect the homemade explosives.

On Friday, the Marines spotted three men digging on the same road. This time there were no civilians around.

A Marine attack helicopter blasted them with cannon fire.

Let’s be specific.  No one wants to see children die.  It might have been the case that had Captain Zinni been free to call in air strikes without the approval of the JAG and staff officers, the call would have been timely enough to have been pulled off without noncombatant casualties.

But what we learn in this example has little to do with the the rules of engagement or the protection of the population.  This is unchanged.  What we learn is that there is an every increasing degree of control over calls made in the battle space.

I have a friend who has a theory, and I believe this theory to be substantially correct.  The value, worth or viability of a document, call, decision or judgment is inversely proportional to the number of signatures on that document, or people agreeing to the action.

We train lower ranking field grade officers to make these decisions, we give them the rules, and we send them into the battle space on our behalf.  They need God at their side to help with moral decision-making.  Lawyers are no replacement for God, and our officers most certainly do not need lawyers second guessing or approving their decisions.

Prior:

Detention Policy in Afghanistan: Micromanaging the Military

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan II

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan

Detention Policy in Afghanistan: Micromanaging the Military

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 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.

Prior:

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan II

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan

Covering for the Rules of Engagement?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 months ago

It is important to recall the incident in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan that occurred approximately five months ago in which three Marines and one Navy Corpsman were killed in an Ambush.  They twice requested air support and artillery, only to be twice denied it from hundreds of miles away because noncombatants may have been in the area.

Taking a slight detour back to General McChrystal’s tactical directive, the new rules place a premium on protection of the population, even to the extent of backing away from fire fights if it is possible that noncombatants will be involved.  In McChrystal’s own words, “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 later predicted as a result of the investigation conducted as part of the follow-on to this incident:

… here is something that has no chance of happening.  No investigation will find that a tactical directive written or endorsed by a four star general was responsible for anything bad.  The directive will be exonerated and the field grade officers responsible for denying artillery had better begin looking for another line of work.

Doing daily searches of ROE, the Kunar Province and other specific keywords it has taken a while to find anything related to this incident.  I have spoken with the McClatchy reporter who covered this incident, Jonathan Landay, and we have both been waiting for release of the investigation (AR 15-6).  As a related issue, I had also stated that I got independent confirmation of the truthfulness of Landay’s report.   The Washington Post has given us the first (and maybe only) look into the findings.

In the third incident that has resulted in a reprimand, four Marines were killed near the eastern Afghanistan village of Ganjgal when they were ambushed on their way to a meeting with local villagers. Senior Marine officials alleged that the Army battalion in the area was slow to provide artillery support to ward off the attack. After an investigation, the battalion executive officer, who was the senior officer on duty at the time, received a letter of reprimand, Army officials said.

The next promotion board will not go well for this field grade officer, and probably the next, and the next.  His career in the Army is essentially over – just as I predicted.  But he was following the spirit (and even the letter) of McChrystal’s rules.  Remember that my objection to the tactical directive isn’t that there is a proviso for protection of noncombatants.  No Marine or Soldier wants to kill noncombatants.  That isn’t what he’s trained to do.

My objection goes to the notion that a four star general is in any position to write an authoritative tactical directive for Lance Corporals and Sergeants in the field under fire, thus removing their judgment from consideration.  It is the ultimate “I don’t trust you” insult, and it kills troops.  “I support the troops” isn’t just a lie for the Daily Kos folks.  It’s the ugly secret for some flag officers.

And you heard the prediction here first.  Here is another prediction.  We won’t see the release of the full AR 15-6 investigation so that we can learn the full truth about the failures that fateful day which killed three Marines and a Navy Corpsman.

Prior:

Rules of Engagement category

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan II

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan II

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

In Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan I said:

A strong NCO corps was and is something that the Iraqi Security Forces haven’t been able to implement despite the best efforts of U.S. trainers.  But the trend in U.S. warfare is going in the wrong direction.  While officers might like to claim that they have the utmost respect for and confidence in their Gunnys, First Sergeants, Sergeant Majors, and in the Army, Command Sergeant Majors, the practice of micromanaging conflicts shows this claim is to some extent wishful thinking.

The U.S. officer corps has unwittingly bought into the Western business and industrial model of high level managers micromanaging their employees, metrics, and even day to day actions.  Officers have become more managers than military leaders, and paradoxically this has driven the U.S. military away from the Western strength of the NCO corps and towards a more Middle Eastern model.

From North County Times, take a quick look at the new Major General who will be leading the Marines in Afghanistan.

Mills, the son of a World War II Navy officer, rejects the implication of a frequently heard phrase about Afghanistan that says U.S. and NATO troops have the watches but the Taliban has the time —- meaning the enemy force can wait out the West and take over when foreign troops leave.

“I don’t think they really do have the time,” he said. “If you look at what the II Marine Expeditionary Brigade has been doing in securing the countryside, it shows we can be successful for the long term. We can win over the people.”

The Marines he will command will conduct joint operations with Afghan National Army and security forces, and the troops will stay in the areas they are assigned and not live on fixed bases. That strategy is key in counter-insurgency operations, he said.

“You can’t fight just from forward operating bases,” he said.

The rules of engagement in Afghanistan are continuing to “mature,” Mills said, stressing that avoiding civilian casualties and proving to the population that U.S. forces can chase away and keep the Taliban from reasserting themselves is central to the mission.

As his Blackberry buzzed with incoming e-mails every 30 seconds or so, Mills said he stays in shape by running and working out every couple of days.

Folks, when you’re carrying a Blackberry which receives an e-mail every 30 seconds, you know that you’re micromanaging your reports.  It’s a model taken from American Corporate conglomerates, and it isn’t appropriate for the U.S. military.  It’s why General McChrystal feels that it’s appropriate to issue tactical directives that govern rules of engagement in very localized and unique situations, settings and situations about which he knows absolutely nothing.

It’s the same mentality that dictates that a Battalion of Marines in Fallujah in 2007 must jettison their lighter, more dust and desert friendly Bates Tactical Boots (purchased at TAGs before deployment in lieu of the heavier clodhopper Marine Boots) because they don’t all look quite the same as the issue boots to a camera mounted in Fallujah streaming to the Pentagon.  Or because of a MARADMIN on equipment.  That’s right.  Eight Hundred Marines throw away their boots with logistics having to ship that many more pairs to Fallujah because – they need to look the same as each other.

Regardless of the alleged trust that field grade and flag officers have in what they call our fine young men in combat, the reality of the situation is that they don’t trust the enlisted men or the NCOs to do the right thing.  If they did they wouldn’t need to deny artillery support for Marines in Kunar (killing four), take e-mails every 30 seconds, or in fact worry about tactics at all.  Generals worry over strategy, not tactics.  We have lost our way and become upside down in our focus, and unless we regain it, we – the premier Armed Forces in the world – we will lose our advantage to a bunch of ignorant, sandaled fanatics because we are being run by a group of control freaks who worry over the wrong things.


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