Dad of USMC KIA Criticizes Afghan ROE

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jumpinjarhead, Oct 15, 2009.

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  1. [​IMG]
    This March 9, 2007, family photo provided by retired Marine 1st Sgt. John Bernard, right, shows him with his wife Sharon, left and late son, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, center, at Joshua's graduation from Marine boot camp, Parris Island, S.C. Joshua Bernard was killed in August 2009 while on patrol in Afghanistan.

  2. Can understand his POV. Not sure what the British ROE are - are they the same - I've heard they're pretty strict from US internet boards.
  3. It's tough to be cross or angry with someone who has lost a child in combat or anywhere else. God bless him for his loss.

    But, the unfortunate truth is that McChrystal's POV is a realistic one and his establishment of ROEs reflects both the reality of the mission and the ultimate end state from where he sits. If you've gone to the same school house he has--JFKSWC--on Bragg his approach rings true.

    ROEs suck, they suck even worse when your unit is where the rubber hits the road; that roadblock, that convoy, that patrol, etc. But ultimately they are there for a reason some of those reasons--like every other reg in the military--is because some soldier, some devil dog or a platoon/company/bn of them f'd up along the way.

    When an Army convoy barreling through a town south of Ad Diwanaia ran over a 12 year and a family in their car was shot by their NG gunners the AO Marine CDR in the COC who'd worked hard to get the locals support blurted out "Well there's 3 months f'ing work down the drain".

    ROEs support the mission (or should if applied correctly), and the mission comes first. Always. The hard truth of a life in the military is the mission comes first--the safety of the country, a higher political objective, whatever--ahead of the lives of soldiers, Marines, sailors, airman or coasties. That's why they're called warriors. Otherwise we'd have taken jobs as bakers, postman, teachers, etc., in civilian life.

    I'm terribly sorry the man lost his son and angry at what the press did to him but I think we all realize when the emotion is over that McChrystal has been given a sh-t-sandwich; he's an Special Forces CDR using unconventional tactics to fight an unconventional war using conventional forces.

    And nothing, absolutely nothing, was more difficult than explaining to Infantry that they have to be 'nice' because it'll help win the war.
  4. In Northern Ireland the kill ratio was 3:1 - in favour of the terrorists. And yet the insurgency is over and a (however unpalatable) political settlement in place. Arguably this restraint, the preference to take military casualties rather than risk civilian ones was one of the reasons why things ended they way they did. And yet I'm only aware of Van Crefeld discussing this in any meaningful way (maybe I don't read enough ?).

    The elephant in the room for US strategists is that to achieve victory as currently articulated the mission for US troops in AFG may well be to die heroically. But US public opinion will not accept that, let alone grieving parents.

    So is it time for NATO to PUFO out of AFG and stop pretending we're willing to do what it takes ?
  5. The guy is understandably angry and it must be hard to be objective when you've lost a child, but that's no excuse to indiscriminately blitz a potential target. The Geneva Convention forbids it - we've got to engage only legitimate targets and we have to be proportionate. McChrystal's critics are suggesting that we bomb the f*** out of everywhere, regardless of whether we kill shedloads of civvies. Isn't that just terrorism? Is the end result an empty country?
  6. Sympathetic_Reaction

    Sympathetic_Reaction LE Book Reviewer

    I'm not sure that he is saying we need to bomb the sh*t out of the place, what he is saying is that this is not a 'standard' war as understood by those who wrote the Geneva convention.

    How do you deal with the conflict of the following situation:

    Avoid civilian deaths but where the 'enemy' is being supplied directly by those civilians? Standing orders to avoid killing children? What about when the kids are shuttling ammo and info to the 'troops' on the other side? or even having pot shots at you themselves?

    I'm not advocating any approach here, just suggesting that the moral situation is not as clearcut as was expected when the GC was written....there is a grey area between enemy and civilian which needs to be addressed, which doesn't seem to be the case in the ROE mentioned.

  7. Northern Ireland ... should we have shot the housewives banging dustbin lids to warn the gunmen the Army was around ? Should we have shot the kids acting as dickers ? Should we have shot the girls who carried the weapons around for the players ? We seemed to manage to find our moral centre then, what makes AFG different ?
  8. One of the strange,

    I don't think he is saying go out and shoot anyone who you think is helping out or bomb them to bits etc but if those civilians are activley helping out during a firefight then to my mind they become combatants and are fare game. If someome of whatever gender or age fired upon me then I would fire back as my life would be in danger, it is as simple as that. If I was brought to book over returning fire then I would argue my case in court (hopefully alive to do so)
  9. My deepest sympathy with Mr. Bernard. I am sorry for his loss.

    A quote from NY Times Magazine today may clear up some of the confusion over what McC is trying to implement:

    "LATER THAT DAY, during a drive through Kabul, McChrystal told me that he had decided to drastically restrict the circumstances under which airstrikes would be permitted: for all practical purposes, he was banning bombs and missiles in populated areas unless his men were in danger of being overrun.

    “Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day, that’s O.K.,” McChrystal told me.

    McChrystal’s missive was the first in an array he has drafted aimed at radically transforming the way America and its allies wage war here. In his first weeks on the job, McChrystal issued directives instructing his men on how to comport themselves with Afghans (“Think of how you would expect a foreign army to operate in your neighborhood, among your families and your children, and act accordingly”); how to fight (“Think of counterinsurgency as an argument to win the support of the people”); even how to drive (“in ways that respect the safety and well-being of the Afghan people”). At the heart of McChrystal’s strategy are three principles: protect the Afghan people, build an Afghan state and make friends with whomever you can, including insurgents. Killing the Taliban is now among the least important things that are expected of NATO soldiers.

    “You can kill Taliban forever,” McChrystal said, “because they are not a finite number.”

    Probably the last two sentences are what is hardest to understand if you were trained to kill people and break things. Look up USMC Gen Krulak's article on 3 Block War to see that the Marines started changing 12 years ago.
  10. Thoughtful observations all round. These posts have identified the difficult issues facing the world community in this era of coordinated world-wide terrorism whereby terrorist groups can coalesce to the point they take on some of the attributes of a nation state in terms of force projection and the like. Compounding this is the intersecting of insurgencies like those seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The body of international law governing warfare is predominately directed at conflicts between nation states, with only a relatively small (and in the context of the hundreds of years of development of the former, relatively new) subset of law addressing internal conflicts between a nation state and insurgents or in current parlance, "non-state actors."

    As a consequence, much of the mainstream of the law of armed conflict does not readily "fit" COIN and CT operations since it premised on the assumption that the forces involved in the conflict are under the effective control of nation states, which in turn are required under international law to ensure their forces comply. Obviously, and as we see repeatedly in often graphic displays of savagery such as video-taped beheadings and the like, the non-state actors are not similarly constrained.

    As a result, the law of armed conflict is necessarily changing but such things take many years to gain the traction needed for widespread international acceptance. Regardless of these changes, we can always expect insurgents and terrorists to use tactics that shock the conscience when they believe it will further their goals and like it or not, COIN/CT forces will not be able to reciprocate in kind.

    Additionally, as in every COIN operation, the indigenous non-combatants are caught in the middle, due to their proximity to combat (usually described in sterile terms like "collateral damage") or, even worse intentionally where the insurgent forces intentionally use the non-combatant population for various purposes that further their strategy, such as using noncombatants as shields to immunize the insurgent force from attack or using them as "bait" to tempt the COIN force into an attack that causes non-combatant casualties.

    This doctrinal component of the insurgents has proven to be a significant limiting factor on COIN operations and has proven to be decisive in some conflicts. This ids especially true where the COIN force is largely comprised of foreigners from "western" nations in that not only do the indigenous people inherently distrust, resent or fear these forces merely because of their presence, but any violence inflicted on them by such forces, whether intentional, reckless or inadvertently has an exponential negative effect.

    As importantly, the sending nations are especially vulnerable to the propaganda that always accompanies any harm to the indigenous population attributable to such foreign forces(this includes actions actually taken by the foreign forces or "false flag"operations by the insurgents to blame the foreign forces). In such nations where there are representative governments, the insurgents will try to manipulate the public opinion in a way to erode political support for the COIN effort in the hope that will result in the withdrawal of such forces.

    Clearly this pillar of insurgent doctrine is well understood by them--various Al Qaeda leaders including Bin Laden have referred to the US experience in Vietnam where erosion of public support through careful orchestration of propaganda and other means was a major factor in the US losing that war. Thus in a conflict like Afghanistan, the NATO forces have little choice but to be more restrictive in terms of ROE even if it means an increase in risk to coalition forces. The challenge is of course trying to maintain a proper balance and not go so far as to put its forces in an untenable position where they are deprived of their inherent right of self defense, individually and collectively, such as occurred in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon.
  11. Just two quick general points on ROEs:

    1. They will never limit the right to self defence. This is almost universally understood to be limited to what is necessary and proportional to defend against the actual attack. Going after someone who has broken off his attack is usually not considered to be self defence, if there is no longer an "imminent threat". (This is of course debatable in the case of bomb makers, their facilities and caches etc, but where there is no imminent threat, you may have time to make certain there are no civilians involved.)

    2. The ROEs will be the same across a force, or more restrictive if local commanders decided to hold some rules at their decisionmaking level at their own discretion. Rules cannot be less restrictive locally unless local commanders have cleared it (requested authorisation) with their higher.
  12. I hope you are correct but I am not so sanguine having seen it occur in the past, especially in COIN operations. There is a perverse tendency among some military officers who are longer in career goals than they are in moral courage to draw ever tighter circles around their troops as the ROE moves downward. This is a bit like the phenomenon on inspection day when the OC inspects at 0800, the 2IC inspects at 0700, the WO1 at 0600 and so on until the troops have been up all night being inspected.
  13. jj, as stated, I was making a general point.

    Concur with your observation on the 7 o'clock, 6 o'clock just-to-be-sure I make no mistakes kind of thinking that was associated with Zero Defects et al.

    In my experience, this is still prevalent in the two Armies who speak most of mission command (or Auftragstaktik in the one case 8) ) but practise it the least.

    If a commander does not trust the situational awareness or judgement of his subordinates who are in the situation there is clearly a lack of trust. sadly this is often the case, for several reasons, in multinational operations.
  14. Spot on.
  15. There are two problems.

    Firstly, there's the fact that the requests for artillery support were denied by the people in the command posts. As it stands, you need a senior battalion staff officer's approval to fire a mission, mere company commanders don't rank highly enough. There is a great fear of being called onto the carpet for breaking ROEs.

    The other problem, unrelated, but which we are starting to notice, is that co-operation from the locals has decreased in the last couple of months since we've been a lot more reluctant to use firepower. We're being told that the impression has been that we are no longer willing to fight the insurgents, and that as a result, the locals see co-operating with us as an increased risk: The Taliban/HiG/Whoever are not reducing their intimidation of locals, and if the locals think the US won't kill them, then it's probably in their (the locals) best interests not to associate with us.