ROE Death Spiral

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew McAllister, with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, patrols in Nawa district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2009. Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment are deployed with Regimental Combat Team 7 to conduct counterinsurgency operations with Afghan National Security Forces in southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Purschwitz/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew McAllister, with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, patrols in Nawa district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2009. Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment are deployed with Regimental Combat Team 7 to conduct counterinsurgency operations with Afghan National Security Forces in southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Purschwitz/Released)

From a story in Marine Times on the new rules of engagement in Afghanistan:

Army, Marine and Afghan National Army troops experienced the effect of McChrystal’s tighter rules directly Sept. 8, when their small outpost in Ganjgal, in Kunar province near the Pakistan border, was blindsided by insurgents.

Three Marines and a corpsman died that day, and a soldier, 41-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who was shot through the mouth and neck, died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. An embedded reporter with McClatchy News Service, Jonathan Landay, reported that “U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.”

This sort of thing, like when the Air Force announced it might ‘buzz’ enemy forces instead of bombing them, is ridiculous. Back in June, when new policies regarding fighting near Afghan civilians was announced, I wrote:

Isn’t this the equivalent of deciding that police will not chase criminals so that bystanders won’t get hurt, then publicizing the rule?

It’s bad enough that US troops under enemy fire won’t always get the support they need because of a new policy. But to announce that policy simply invites the enemy to take advantage of it.

Put simply, us being nice to locals won’t work while the bad guys are running around free being mean. First you have to beat down the insurgents as best you can. Then you have to secure the area. Then you make friendly.

No, I’m not advocating that we simply blow up any and all who are even suspected of being insurgents. But we should be prepared to fight to the utmost of our ability. If not, we should get out.

The cynic in Murdoc wonders if we’re going to see the ROE continuing to become more restrictive until we reach a point where even ardent supporters of the war throw up their hands and say “since the rules won’t let us win we should just quit.” It’s already happening in a lot of places.

And I wonder how much of that is intentional.

Comments

  1. So, they aren’t willing to bomb known enemies, but they ARE willing to bomb tanker trucks surrounded by throngs of “unknowns”?

    Those Air Force (Br)asshats can’t seem to get their sh** straight anymore.

    John T. Reed noted some similar problems in the Afghan ROE as well, and describes them better than I can;
    http://www.johntreed.com/Afghanrules.html

  2. So, they aren’t willing to bomb known enemies, but they ARE willing to bomb tanker trucks surrounded by throngs of “unknowns”?”

    A courageous German Colonel called in arty and he paid the price for it!

  3. If it’s the same fight I’m thinking of, and I’m pretty sure it is, it wasn’t at any outpost. The patrol was moving to the village of Ganjgal, having been asked to come remove weapons caches by village elders. They were ambushed before they entered the village, and there is speculation that the whole thing was a set up.

    The problem with the account is that the patrol in question did receive supporting fires, from both 120mm mortars and 155mm guns, and I believe OH-58Ds as well. There were numerous things that went wrong – there were serious comms issues do to the terrain, which prevented the patrol from talking directly back to their base, having instead to relay through a scout team on high ground, and the supporting QRF couldn’t get to them due to a vehicle rollover en route.

    But saying they didn’t get fire support, from everything I’ve seen – and I was in the room when MG Scaparrotti said it to GEN McChrystal – is false.

    1. HL: The story (written by Marine Corps Times, which is NOT an official publication) does note that the Pentagon “questioned the accuracy of Landay’s report” about not getting the fire support the troops called for. If they really did get what they needed when they needed it, that’s obviously a good thing.

      If this account by the reporter is BS, then it will help no one but the bad guys.

      Overall, as an observer I remain concerned that increasingly-restrictive ROE is going to A) hurt our ability to take the fight to the enemy and B) cause more US/allied casualties than otherwise.

      And, long term, I am concerned that A plus B will equal C) lessened support for the campaign with the public, which could lead to defeat.

  4. The answer is the Mobile Tactical Courtroom.

    The MTCs would be light enough and small enough to fit into an Osprey. The MTC prime mover would have enough power to transport a JAG element and powerpoint would be integral to the vehicle. The MTC must also be able to pull a trailer of up to 6,000 lbs of legal briefs and memos or a fatassed judge. Unit cost might get under what we’re paying for Growlers.

    Instead of supporting fires or air, ground units in contact would be required to call for legal support. The MTC would come in by Osprey or helo, and convene. MTC would also provide attorneys for enemy fighters who did not deploy with any.

    Once all combatants’ legal statuses were determined to the satisfaction of the court, and all non-combatants within 35km of the battlefield were pre-emptiveley compensated for losses, the matter would be referred to the theater commander for permission to resume the battle.

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