Rules of Engagement: Battlefield Dilemma

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The Washington recently aired a story on the increased frustration with the “Rules of Engagement” governing military personnel deployed in Afghanistan.  The story, written by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, documents several incidences where US troops under attack were not able call in additional support for fear of wounding or killing civilians.  Said one disgruntled soldier interviewed for the Washington Post article, ‘”this is not how you fight a war, at least not in Kandahar, we’ve been handcuffed by our chain of command.”

According to the Washington Post article, the current “Rules of Engagement” stem from a tactical directive issued last July (2009) by former commander of military forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, “that limits the use of air and mortar strikes against houses unless personnel are in imminent danger. The directive requires troops to take extensive measures, including a 48-hour ‘pattern of life analysis’ with on-the-ground or aerial surveillance, to ensure that civilians are not in a housing compound before ordering an air strike.”

At his confirmation hearing, General David Petraeus claimed that he would review the directive and most believe that it will be modified in response to increasing claims that US military forces are exposed to undue risk under the current Rules of Engagement.   Nevertheless, in a typical display of self-denial and Pentagon-spin, an unidentified military official claims not to have “found a single situation where a soldier has lost his life because he was not allowed to protect himself,” according to the Washington Post.  If so, why do we need to change the directive which seeks to protect civilian non-combatants?  Clearly, the increased casualty levels in Afghanistan strongly suggests that current “Rules of Engagement” or tactical directives limit the effectiveness and, as such, the safety of military troops currently deployed in Afghanistan.

SFTT is committed to making sure that our young men and women who serve in harm’s way receive the best combat equipment and protective gear available.  SFTT refers to those as the Basic Five:

  • Body Armor that wards off fatal wounds;
  • Comfortable helmets that protect against traumatic brain injuries;
  • A lethal and reliable rifle;
  • A pistol with effective stopping power;
  • Boots that endure and provide comfort during combat.

While the DOD and US Army do not have a very convincing procurement record of making sure our troops have the best possible combat gear, tactical doctrines which expose them to even greater danger must be carefully examined.  SFTT has written on several occasions that current military doctrine appears to expose the grunts on the ground to even greater danger.  If so, shouldn’t they have the best protect gear and combat equipment available to protect themselves and succeed in their mission?

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