Archive for the 'Rules of Engagement' Category



Bricks, St. Louis Riots And Rules Of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 1 week ago

Jim Hoft:

Protesters are chucking bricks from an Interstate 270 overpass. Police have shut down the interstate in north St. Louis County.
Police are moving people out of Ferguson

We’ve seen this before in Iraq.

More than one third of all Soldiers and Marines continue to report being in threatening situations where they were unable to respond due to Rules of Engagement (ROE).  In interviews, Soldiers reported that Iraqis would throw gasoline-filled bottles (i.e., Molotov Cocktails) at their vehicles, yet they were prohibited from responding with force for nearly a month until the ROE were changed.  Soldiers also reported they are still not allowed to respond with force when Iraqis drop large chunks of concrete blocks from second story buildings or overpasses on them when they drive by.  Every groups of Soldiers and Marines interviewed reported that they felt the existing ROE tied their hands, preventing them from doing what needed to be done to win the war …

This was eventually changed and our men were allowed to fire on insurgents throwing blocks from bridges and overhead passes due to the danger.  I am just wondering – to what degree would we allow that for ordinary American citizens who are under threat from blocks thrown from overhead passes?  Would we tie their hands more than we tied the hands of our Soldiers and Marines in Iraq?  If so, why?

Afghanistan Rules Of Engagement Get Even Worse

BY Herschel Smith
1 year ago

The impossible has happened.  The ROE in Afghanistan will get even worse.

The new U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement adds restrictions on already bureaucratic rules of engagement for American troops by making Afghan dwellings virtual safe havens for the enemy, combat veterans say.

The rules of engagement place the burden on U.S. air and ground troops to confirm with certainty that a Taliban fighter is armed before they can fire — even if they are 100 percent sure the target is the enemy. In some cases, aerial gunships have been denied permission to fire even though they reported that targets on the move were armed.

The proposed Bilateral Security Agreement announced Wednesday by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Secretary of State John F. Kerry all but prohibits U.S. troops from entering dwellings during combat. President Obama made the vow directly to Mr. Karzai.

“U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals,” Mr. Obama pledged in a letter to the Afghan leader.

Ryan Zinke, who commanded an assault team within SEAL Team 6, said of the security deal: “The first people who are going to look at it and review it are the enemy we’re trying to fight. It’s going to be a document that can be used effectively against us. This is where we either fight or go home. What’s happening is we’re losing our ability to fight overseas.”

As I’ve covered, we never really had the ability in the first place.  Why are we still in Afghanistan anyway?  I’ve covered this almost two years ago.  We should have already withdrawn.

Tim Lynch, who has spent more time in Afghanistan than any English-speaking man alive, has told me that we’re “finished” in Afghanistan, and he concurred with my counsel to withdraw.

It was a campaign of state-building waged by the social planners.  We should have already pulled all troops out of that God-forsaken part of the world and send in all the social planners who played god with the lives of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.  Let them deal with the mess they created.

To Hamid Karzai, prepare for your own demise.  Your administration will soon collapse.  But not another drop of American blood.

Ganjgal Revisited

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 4 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, 5 months ago

Courtesy of Andrew Exum:

From that day forward, I watched as the war slowly fell apart at the hands of our Army’s middle management — typified by that battalion commander. Case and point, GEN McChrystal’s tenure in Afghanistan. To me, the most compelling part of the Rolling Stone article is the scene where a sergeant down range writes an email to McChrystal stating he believes GEN McChrystal doesn’t get the war and has ordered policies that are killing men on the front lines. GEN McChrystal gets on the next flight to this sergeant’s FOB and goes on patrol with the sergeant’s unit. Afterwards, he holds an After Action Review with the sergeant and his men in the outpost’s makeshift chowhall. During the AAR he notices a laminated list posted on the chowhall’s wall that reads something like “Rules of Engagement As Ordered By COMISAF.” Upon reading the list, McChrystal says aloud “these aren’t my rules.” And thus my point, somewhere between GEN McChrystal issuing orders and the point at which these front line soldiers received them, the Army’s middle management bureaucracy altered them to be significantly risk adverse (sic).

This is a first hand account, anecdotal, but I presume reliable, concerning a surprise for General McChrystal concerning how his rules were applied.  So does this account rehabilitate McChrystal’s image (which seems to be its point)?

I will grant the proposition that staff and field grade officers (at least some of them) were risk adverse (sic – averse).  I will grant the proposition that there were modifications, amendments, clarifications, additional stipulations, and so on and so forth, in the unit-level ROE as compared to the theater-specific ROE, just as there is between the standing ROE of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theater-specific ROE.

What I refuse to grant is that any of this “altered them to be significantly risk adverse.”  McChrystal’s ROE were risk averse to begin with, and a recapitulation of the rules of engagement will show that missions had to end because there was a “chance” that an illumination round would fall on a domicile.  When the Marines went into Marjah, General Rodriguez attempted to micromanage an entire Marine Air-Ground Task Force like they were children.  “Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marja in February, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense.”  Listen to that again.  Rodriguez’s operation center had to approve offensive air strikes.  Seriously.  You simply can’t make this stuff up.

The problems came from the top.

“If you are in a situation where you are under fire from the enemy… if there is any chance of creating civilian casualties or if you don’t know whether you will create civilian casualties, if you can withdraw from that situation without firing, then you must do so.”

I can compute the probability that a falling satellite will land on McChrystal’s head, and it is non-zero.  Thus, there is a “chance” of that happening.  This guidance is stupid, issued by stupid men, applied in a stupid campaign if that’s the way it is going to be conducted.  Are the staff and field grade officers (and their JAGs) responsible for the ROE?  Yes.  Should the men at Joyce (who made the decision to deny air support to the Marines as Ganjgal) have spent time in Leavenworth?  Yes.

Does any of this obviate the responsibility McChrystal had for the ROE?  No, not one bit.  This isn’t an either-or proposition, it is both-and.  And frankly, we don’t seem to have learned our lessons.

The number of British soldiers being shot dead in Afghanistan is spiralling as new tactics ban them from shooting at the Taliban until they are fired at themselves.

Eleven have been killed by enemy gunfire in Helmand in the past three months compared with two in the same period during 2011.

Soldiers blame efforts to slash the number of civilian casualties ordered by the US general in command of Coalition forces.

The Ministry of Defence yesterday denied the rules of engagement for British troops had changed.

But a spokesman for Coalition forces said British soldiers were told to change procedures after a tactical review.

Troops yesterday said they are now more vulnerable at road-junction checkpoints or while patrolling Taliban heartlands.

They say that previously they could shoot first but are now allowed only to return fire.

One corporal said: “When I arrived in Helmand, my officers said our tactics were going to change. They said if I saw somebody carrying a rifle or a rocket launcher, I shouldn’t fire at him. Only if he shot at me or a member of my patrol, and I could see a muzzle flash, could I use my weapon.

“I was shocked and so were my mates. We are trained to close in and kill the enemy, not to let him stroll on, watch us and let him choose the best time to ambush us.

Absurd.  Even if you argue that the head of a family ought to be allowed to carry a personal defense weapon, an RPG doesn’t fit that category.  We still have good men deployed in Afghanistan, and we are letting the enemy “choose the best time to ambush us.”

How utterly sad and despicable.

Concerning Killing Bin Laden

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

A former Navy SEAL is challenging Nicholas Schmidle’s account of the OBL raid.

Forget whatever you think you know about the night Osama bin Laden was killed. According to a former Navy SEAL who claims to have the inside track, the mangled tales told of that historic night have only now been corrected.

“It became obvious in the weeks evolving after the mission that the story that was getting put out there was not only untrue, but it was a really ugly farce of what did happen,” said Chuck Pfarrer, author of Seal Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.

In an extensive interview with The Daily Caller, Pfarrer gave a detailed account of why he believes the record needed to be corrected, and why he set out to share the personal stories of the warriors who penetrated bin Laden’s long-secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In August the New Yorker delivered a riveting blow-by-blow of the SEALs’ May 1, 2011 raid on bin Laden’s hideaway. In that account, later reported to lack contributions from the SEALs involved, readers are taken through a mission that began with a top-secret helicopter crashing and led to a bottom-up assault of the Abbottabad compound.

Freelancer Nicholas Schmidle wrote that the SEALs had shot and blasted their way up floor-by-floor, finally cornering the bewildered Al-Qaida leader:

“The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. ‘There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,’ the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye.”

Chuck Pfarrer rejects almost all of that story.

“The version of the 45-minute firefight, and the ground-up assault, and the cold-blooded murder on the third floor — that wasn’t the mission,” Pfarrer told TheDC.

“I had to try and figure out, well, look: Why is this story not what I’m hearing? Why is it so off and how is it so off?” he recounted. “One of the things I sort of determined was, OK, somebody was told ‘one of the insertion helicopters crashed.’ OK, well that got muddled to ‘a helicopter crashed on insertion.’”

The helicopters, called “Stealth Hawks,” are inconspicuous machines concealing cutting-edge technology. They entered the compound as planned, with “Razor 1″ disembarking its team of SEALs on the roof of the compound — not on the ground level. There was no crash landing. That wouldn’t occur until after bin Laden was dead.

Meanwhile, “Razor 2″ took up a hovering position so that its on-board snipers, some of whom had also participated in the sea rescue of Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips, had a clear view of anyone fleeing the compound.

The SEALs then dropped down from the roof, immediately penetrated the third floor, and hastily encountered bin Laden in his room. He was not standing still.

“He dived across the king-size bed to get at the AKSU rifle he kept by the headboard,” wrote Pfarrer in his book. It was at that moment, a mere 90 seconds after the SEALs first set foot on the roof, that two American bullets shattered bin Laden’s chest and head, killing a man who sought violence to the very end.

Pfarrer goes on to describe how the announcement of the mission on the very day of the mission rendered all intelligence taken from the compound as moot and worthless.  Then there is this bombshell statement.

Whether or not bin Laden resisted ultimately developed into a barrage of murky official and unofficial explanations in the days following. And statements from as high as then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered confirmation  that the endeavor was a “kill mission.”

Pfarrer dismisses that assertion.

“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,” explained Pfarrer, who maintains that bin Laden would have been captured had he surrendered. “Unlike the Germans in World War II, if you’re a petty officer, a chief petty officer, a naval officer, and you’re giving an order to murder somebody, that’s an unlawful order.”

Good grief.  I don’t know about the balance of this report, and I like and respect Nick Schmidle and his work.  He can address the criticism better than can I.  But I will address this last statement by Pfarrer.

This is an absolutely absurd, ridiculous, outlandish, outrageous claim to make.  I have discussed the rules of engagement before with 69 articles to date and more detail than be found anywhere on the internet, linking and discussing the standing ROE issued by the CJCS, the Iraq-specific ROE, the Afghanistan ROE and General McChrystal’s tactical directive, and so on.

The fact of the matter is that there are mission-specific rules of engagement, and they don’t always comport with the theater-specific ROE.  Furthermore, while it might have been correct to say something like a targeted killing does not comport with the standing ROE issued by the CJCS, thus requiring specific instructions to these servicemen, or thus requiring an order by the POTUS, what Pfarrer has said is that such an order would be “unlawful” and the action tantamount to “murder.”

It’s the same error in judgment that General Kearney made with he attempted to charge two Army snipers with murder when they targeted an unarmed Taliban commander.  General Kearney should have been dismissed from his command for being an idiot and the two snipers commended for their actions.

It is legitimate to conduct these kinds of missions, just as it is to conduct sniper operations.

… discussion of the location of bin Laden’s weapon and whether he might have been wearing a suicide vest are utterly irrelevant: engaging bin Laden with deadly force is most appropriately viewed as grounded on the second rationale: jus in bello.

The law pertaining to the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello), which has developed since antiquity and includes certain provisions of the modern Geneva and Hague conventions, permits the sanctioned killing of an opponent in an armed conflict, regardless of whether he is armed at the moment he is engaged. So long as the opponent meets the minimum criteria to be regarded as a combatant (even an unlawful combatant), he may be engaged with deadly force, even if he is separated from his weapon. He may be killed while sleeping, eating, taking a shower, cleaning his weapon, meditating, or standing on his head. It is his status as an enemy combatant, not his activity at the moment of engagement, which is dispositive.

It is manifestly absurd to assert that an order to kill OBL would have been tantamount to murder.  It was and is no different than the targeted killings of Tehrik-i-Taliban commanders by drone strikes (which we do on a semi-daily basis).

Again, Nick Schmidle can handle the balance of the criticism.  Thus far, I am not impressed with Mr. Pfarrer’s tirade.

British Soldiers Told Not To Shoot IED Emplacers

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

This remarkable report comes from The Telegraph.

British soldiers who spot Taliban fighters planting roadside bombs are told not to shoot them because they do not pose an immediate threat, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

They are instead being ordered to just observe insurgents and record their position to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

The controversial policy emerged at an inquest into the death of Sgt Peter Rayner, 34, a soldier from the 2nd Batallion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who was killed in October last year by an improvised explosive device as he led a patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Wendy Rayner, 40, disclosed that in the days leading up to his death her husband been told that it was not his job to attack insurgents laying bombs.

Mrs Rayner, who lives with their young son in Bradford, told the inquest that the insurgents were being allowed to get away with the murder of British troops.

She said: “They are not allowed to fire on these terrorists. If they can see people leaving these IEDs, why can’t they take them out? One officer even told him ‘I am an army Captain and you will do your job’.

“We have lost too many men out there, they had seen people planting IEDs yet could not open fire or make contact with them. I believe strongly if people had taken on board what he was saying more he might have been here today.”

Under the Geneva Convention and the nationally administered Rules of Engagement the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan are told they can only attack if there is an immediate threat to life.

A key part of the MoD’s counter-insurgency theory holds that it is more important to win over civilians by not killing innocent people than it is to eliminate every potential insurgent.

Analysis & Commentary

The penultimate paragraph is total crap, and the MoD knows it.  IED emplacers are combatants, and the British Soldiers no more have to wait for a gun to be pointed at their heads than a sniper has to wait for the same thing from a Taliban fighter 1000 yards away.

So that excuse is just a ruse.  The final paragraph outlines the real reason for the problem.  The British military doctrines for counterinsurgency, taken primarily from their experience in Northern Ireland, includes almost at every step of the process the de-escalation of violence no matter what the cost.

It not only loses counterinsurgencies, but it loses the support of the public (and in part, the later causes the former).  It’s what the British did in Basra, and it’s what they did in Musa Qala.  The enlisted men in the British Army are brave and well-trained, and the U.S. Marines have the utmost respect for the British Royal Marines.  But there is a doctrinal sickness in the officer corps of the British Army.  Not the British public, and not the British enlisted man.  The officer corps.  The officer corps of the British Army needs a gut check before it ever attempts another war of any kind, conventional, hybrid or counterinsurgency.

Prior: True Confessions of British Counterinsurgency

Our Moment of Truth in Afghanistan: Karzai Orders Halt to Airstrikes

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 6 months ago

Hamid Karzai has raised the ante in the campaign in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded Tuesday that the U.S.-led coalition stop all airstrikes on Afghan homes, drawing his government closer than ever to direct opposition to the American presence here.

The comments could complicate President Obama’s looming decision on how quickly to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Even for Western officials accustomed to Karzai’s rebukes, his latest remarks were cause for deep concern, because they went further than before in calling for radical change in how NATO fights its war.

Tuesday’s demand followed his earlier insistence that foreign forces end night raids, stop unilateral operations, and stay off roads and out of Afghan villages. With each call, Karzai has outlined in ever more stark lines a vision of a vastly less aggressive U.S. military posture against the Taliban. The stance is particularly risky for him politically because his government relies on NATO for its political and economic survival.

“I warn NATO forces that a repeat of airstrikes on the houses of Afghanistan’s people will not be allowed,” Karzai said at a news conference at the presidential palace. “The people of Afghanistan will not allow this to happen anymore, and there is no excuse for such strikes.”

He added that foreign forces are close to “the behavior of an occupation” and the “Afghan people know how to deal with that” — a thinly veiled threat that Afghans could rise up against NATO and drive them out as with past occupying armies. He said Afghanistan would be “forced to take unilateral action” if the bombardment of homes did not cease, although he did not specify what that action would be.

“History is a witness [to] how Afghanistan deals with occupiers,” he said.

Karzai lacks the authority to order NATO to stop airstrikes on homes. But his criticism strikes at a central weapon for U.S. military planners: Airstrikes have surged during the past year and numbered nearly 300 in April.

The immediate provocation for Karzai’s remarks was a U.S. military airstrike in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province that killed at least nine civilians, including children. But Karzai’s statement also was the culmination of years of complaints about civilian casualties and aggressive NATO military operations.

Some Western diplomats in Kabul who have worked closely with Karzai think these statements reflect his authentic beliefs and are not simply an attempt to score domestic political points. They say he is deeply frustrated by his inability as president to exert real authority over the foreign presence in Afghanistan …

“I think part of him is crying out for help,” said one senior Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Poor Karzai.  Western diplomats.  Authentic beliefs.  And deep frustration.  “Crying out for help.”  Huh.  Perhaps it might have been appropriate, upon fielding his demand, to tell him to go arrest his criminal brother Wali Karzai, have honest elections, stop releasing Taliban prisoners, and stop trying to ally with the enemy.  So what about the specific instance that catalyzed this demand?

Although U.S. and NATO officials say they have made reducing civilian deaths a top priority, they concede that it is almost impossible to eliminate them entirely, particularly as insurgents fight in and among the population. They said the deaths last week in Helmand were such an example.

On Saturday, a U.S. Marine patrol was attacked by five insurgents in the Now Zad district of Helmand, killing one Marine. U.S. military officials described the assault as an attack from three sides and said the Marines were “pinned down” by gunfire. The insurgents then took cover in a walled house and continued to fight until the Marines called in a Harrier fighter jet for an airstrike. “Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians,” U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the NATO commander in Afghanistan’s southwest, said in a statement.

Petraeus’s tactical directive on airstrikes says that troops cannot call in close air support on a housing compound unless they are under an imminent threat; simply watching insurgents run into a house is not sufficient grounds for an airstrike.

“Everything we’ve seen indicates this was within the current directive,” said one U.S. military official in Kabul. “The only way they could get out of the situation and survive was to call in close air support.”

Perhaps Karzai wants to see dead Marines.  Perhaps we should completely ignore the one who is “crying out for help.”  Perhaps it’s time to withdraw from Afghanistan if we’re going to kowtow to ridiculous demands that harm the troops.

Curiously, this article has been revised since original issue.  It originally stated that the Afghan government was already involved – even to the point of giving approval – for many of the high value target raids in Afghanistan.  We are already kowtowing to Karzai’s ridiculous demands.

SEALs Only Found Weapons After OBL Killed

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

From The Guardian.

The AP reported that the Americans found “barriers” at each stair landing of the three-storey building, encountered fire once and killed three men and one woman. The account did not specify how many of the dead were armed.

After 15 minutes the Seals, passing huddles of frightened children, reached the top floor where they found Bin Laden at the end of the hallway. They said they recognised him “immediately”. Bin Laden ducked into a room, followed quickly by three Seals.

The first soldier pushed aside two women who tried to protect Bin Laden, apparently fearing they were wearing suicide vests, while the second opened fire on the al-Qaida leader, hitting him in the head and chest.

Moments later, as the Americans photographed his body, they found an AK-47 rifle and a Makarov pistol on a shelf beside the door they had just entered. Bin Laden had not touched the weapons, according to the AP account.

That settles it.  Their mission was to kill OBL.  I’m okay with that.  Actually, there is a little more to the story than that.  The CJCS Standing ROE and the Iraq- and Afghanistan-specific allows specific targeting of designated terrorist groups and declared enemy combatants.  But this gets muddled, and a prime example of this is when Moqtada al-Sadr was removed from that list.  Members of the Mahdi militia in Iraq could then no longer be targeted, and had to be treated as insurgents in the balance of Iraq, and captured if possible.

Members of the Taliban are like that.  But more to the point, because of the detailed intelligence surrounding the killing of OBL, the executive order and the fact that OBL was previously designated as a target, it was an easy decision for the SEALs.

Fast forward to the Helmand Province today.  In Marjah, 71% of the interviewees in one recent poll said that OBL’s death was a bad thing.  And regarding OBL’s death, the Marines are saying the following.

“We’re still here in Afghanistan, Sangin is still very hostile, especially where we’re at here, the enemy is still going to fight us, and we have to maintain our composure — not get complacent. Just because we took out the head honcho doesn’t mean these guys are gonna throw up their arms and be done with it.”

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to get done here. It’s a huge step in the right direction … but we still need to finish our mission. …”

“There’s always gonna be insurgency, it’s never gonna end. … This fight’s definitely gonna be a hard one to win, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”

“What happens tomorrow? We’re gonna just do the same thing. We’re gonna wake up and keep doing what we’re doing every single day until we’re out of here. Because we’ve got a job here. We’ve got a mission to complete. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”

“I think that everyone’s gonna be real happy about the fact that it’s one bad man that can’t hurt anybody else, but … It’s one more day. … It didn’t end the war for us. … I think everybody’s just gotta stay focused on what they’re doing.”

The war continues.  And there continues to be a double standard concerning rules of engagement.

Prior: Bin Laden: Mission Kill!

Shot at Sirajuddin Haqqani Passed Up Due To Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

From The Los Angeles Times:

The CIA  passed up a chance last year to kill Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of an anti-American insurgent network in Pakistan  that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, when it chose not to fire a missile at him from a Predator drone because women and children were nearby, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.

The incident was one of at least three occasions in the last six months when a militant was identified on video and a shot was available, but U.S. officials decided not to fire in order to avoid civilian casualties, said a senior Pakistani official familiar with the drone program.

[ ... ]

The Pakistani official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said allowing high-value targets to escape reflected a decision by the U.S. since August to use greater caution in the drone strikes. A strike Aug. 22 destroyed a militant hide-out in North Waziristan, killing 13 members of the Afghan Taliban but also four women and three children who were living among them, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

The U.S. officials said there had been no policy change and that there always have been occasions when the CIA decided not to fire at a target in the midst of civilians. Those officials would confirm only the Haqqani incident. But they cited two other occasions in the last year when missiles that had already been fired from drones were diverted off target to avoid killing civilians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified program.

Another factor driving the change, according to a former CIA official, is that the U.S. can afford to forgo an opportunity to kill a senior militant because intelligence and technology improvements to drone operations give the CIA confidence it will get the chance for a clearer shot.

Someone is a “prophet or a son of a prophet,” because we know that we are going to get a clearer shot at one of the most powerful Taliban leaders in the AfPak region, the younger Haqqani who has taken over operational control of the Haqqani network from his father, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Normally I do not favor the high value target program for mid-level Taliban commanders using Special Operations Forces.  I don’t believe that it’s all that effective, especially since we usually engage in a catch-and-release program for the commanders with the deadline for judicial action in Afghanistan being 96 hours.  I think there is a better way.

But I favored the targeted killing of Baitullah Mehsud, and called for it months before it occurred.  Sirajjudin Haqqani was a very significant target, and it’s remarkable that he was allowed to escape our noose, especially due to rules of engagement.  Make no mistake about it.  This comes back to rules of engagement and possible collateral damage.  But the collateral damage from leaving Sirajuddin Haqqani alive may be catastrophic for some American families, who may lose their sons from massed Taliban force attacks on U.S. outposts, or to IEDs that blow their legs off.

Take particular note just exactly who it is that we left alive, and what he has to say about massing of Taliban forces up to 200-300 fighters at a time.  Consider that in the context of the Battle of Wanat and Kamdesh.  High value targeted killings by drones or other methods is not the answer to the campaign, but it waxes important when it comes to targets such as Haqqani.  We lost that opportunity.

Reprimands in Marine Deaths in Ganjgal Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 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


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