More Restrictive Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan

Sounds to me like this another way of saying “we don’t want to win”:

GIs Told Not to Risk Civilian Lives

KABUL — Beginning today, American Soldiers in Afghanistan will be under orders to back down when they’re chasing Taliban fighters whenever they think that civilians might be at risk.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, will issue the directive as part of an effort to cut down on civilian casualties, which have enraged the Afghan government and residents. Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters.

The order is consistent with what national security adviser James L. Jones told McClatchy Newspapers in Washington Wednesday was President Barack Obama’s concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

“General McChrystal has been given instructions when he left here that, in all military operations, that we redouble our efforts to make sure that innocent loss of life is minimized, with zero being the goal,” Jones said, noting that, “In one mishap you can create thousands more terrorists than you had before the mishap.”

Nobody wants civilian casualties, obviously. It is a PR problem, it kills people who may or may not be innocent, and it stirs up local anger.

But we aren’t fighting uniformed fighters on a battlefield with tanks and planes. We are fighting insurgents, who use the fact they blend into the scenery as a tactical advantage. You could even call it a strategic advantage, especially now, with these new rules. In that world, you have to be willing to accept civilian casualties, or you might as well throw your weapons down and go home.

Plus, what is a civilian, anyway, when the local population supports the insurgency, as in a place like Waziristan? It is, essentially, Taliban-istan.

Whose interests are served by pretending there is a bright line to be drawn between civilian and militant in such a place?

We’d better be pretty careful with this question, because it will be used to our opponent’s advantage, and it will hurt our chances of success. It is perceived as weakness during a fight, because that’s exactly what it is. And in a more general sense, it has already affected our perception of who has the moral high ground, in a war against terrorists who blow up children running for candy.

We were already fighting under too-restrictive Rules of Engagement, and now we’ve gone even further in the wrong direction. Supposedly, Obama wants to win in Afghanistan. This is not how you do that.

And don’t be surprised when terrorists play us for suckers by dressing up like women in order to escape confrontation. Hey look, they already did.

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