Perverse rules of Afghan engagement hamper US forces

(CCU Student) The war in Afghanistan today has increasingly taken on more and more dimensions and complications. Our soldiers are fighting in a place that has for thousands of years been called the “graveyard of empires” and the media is now making it look like that will be our fate. Unfortunately, our military has been forced to fight in impossible terrain with little civilization or access to support. Now adding to the growing frustrations, the Obama administration has ordered a new set of rules of engagement that prevent our soldiers from doing their jobs.

Talk to anybody that has been in a firefight and they will tell you that it is one of the most frightening and stressful situation known to man. Thanks to excellent training, however, our soldiers act in a professional and disciplined manner under fore and they get the jobs done quickly and efficiently even when the odds are not in their favor. But now our troops are forbidden to do their jobs because of a new set of rules that come directly from the White House.

The new rules of engagement state that American forces are ordered to break contact when fired upon from an area that may contain civilians such as a compound, house, or village. When questioned about this, commander in Afghanistan GEN Stanley McChrystal stated that his measure of our forces’ effectiveness will be the “number of Afghans shielded from violence” — not the number of militants killed. Our men are now ordered to try and get away from the fight if at all possible without putting our men at “unnecessary risk.”

Now as good as this plan sounds, there are many areas where both the administration and the brass are sadly mistaken. The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces we are facing today are not stupid; they have demonstrated numerous times that they are able to quickly learn our tactics and base their attacks on how we react. It will not take long before these fighters simply occupy all areas where the civilians hang out and they will safer than if they were in a cave. From these populated areas they will be able to launch attacks at US and NATO forces without fear of major retaliation.

Because of this, our newly emboldened enemy will grow stronger as they retake Afghanistan and subjugate the population as they have already done in the border areas with Pakistan and in the province of Waziristan across the border. And while they do this, our men will have only the desert and the wilderness to defend. We will see increased US casualties in the near future if the Commander in Chief and the brass do not do away with these rules.

Our military has already invested greatly in preventing collateral damage and civilian deaths. We have invested billions precision munitions and non-lethal weapons so that the innocent do not have to die. Unfortunately, in war people die. We cannot expect to get through this war and emerge victoriously without inflicting some casualties on the population. Some civilians are going to die no matter what happens. The question is how many we will allow to die because of this war. If we allow the Taliban to retake control of the population, then the Afghanis will be faced with the oppression, and mass murder that comes with the Taliban.

I believe that General MacArthur had it right when he said, “In war there is no substitute for victory,” and also, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” We would be wise to learn from these wise words and act on them before it is too late for our country and for the people of Afghanistan that look to us for freedom.


Jacob DeLargy is a CCU freshman and Army ROTC cadet

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