Special Forces - Special uniforms?

#1
This from the ASPALS page
The NGO community has expressed concern about the legality of US and other Coalition special operations forces operating in Afghanistan in “civilian clothing." Is it lawful for combatants to wear civilian clothing or nonstandard uniforms in combat? It is not without precedent. Lawrence wore Arab clothing as he led the Arab revolt against Ottoman rule that began June 5, 1916. He learned the lesson from the death of Captain Shakespear who was killed by an enemy sniper when his British Army uniform singled him out and identified him as a high-value target. Indigenous forces with which allied special forces might serve may not wish for their allied colleagues to be readily identified. Moreover, the allied troops themselves might be eager to blend in with their surroundings. NGOs might not want it to be thought that soldiers were assisting them in eg humanitarian missions. There are many examples from history where forces have operated in civilian clothing. Is this perfidy? Or is it warranted by military necessity?
I suppose the cynical answer is to knock up a suit of civilian pattern clothes and then stick an army label in it.
 
#2
Geneva Conventions dictate that to be seen as a lawful combatant you are required to be easiy recognisable as such and operate under a standard uniform, it is illegal to wear the enemies uniform and totally forbidden to use civillian clothing as cover, this will extend to Special Forces too.

According to the conventions the post above is describing perfidy. But how many of our enemies follow the rules?
 
#3
Well as most of our current enemys are not serving with any recognised military units and are terrorist I would say very few.

Therefore we are not required to act within the confines of the geneva convention as it is a terrorist threat and should be covered under some other convention. Otherwise we have been contravening it since the 60's in N.I.

D.D. :roll:
 
#4
The Geneva Convetions are recognised as and when it suits, by everyone involved in armed combat. Equally they are ignored by everyone when they are inconvenient.
 
#6
Agreed but if we don't follow the convention then we are no better than those we are trying to defeat. There are of course times when this doesn't work - for example the use of the Red Cross, if it is misused (for example launching attacks from hospitals or ambulances) then we are totally within our rights to attack and destoy them if necessary, this is allowed under the conventions and makes perfect sense.

We all sign up to the Geneva Convention when we put on the British Uniform and we should work as hard as we can to abide by them. That's my opinion anyway.
 
#7
I think the fact that we are a liberal democracy means that we ARE better than those we are trying to defeat. If they break the rules then so should we. If we had stuck to the rules we would have lost WW2 for a start. Would that have helped civilisation and made us all better people because we had clung to the moral high ground? I think not.

As an aside, when was the last time two modern liberal democracies went to war with each other?
 
#8
The Geneva Convention has saved untold lives in many wars, and should never be cast aside for that very reason. However, it was written in a time when the type and scope of current operations was beyond imagination.

There are parts of it, that should never be crossed, ie hospitals and ambulances, but in these modern conflicts the rules are generally only applied by one side, ie the actual field armies. In Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan and now in Iraq we are up against terrorists, not armies. And they generally take our rules and use them against us.

I believe in Mogadishu, Somalia, once it became known that the yanks would not shoot unarmed civialians, especially women and children, they would form shields of unarmed civialians around snipers. This left the yanks in a bit of difficult predicament. You can't kill the sniper without harming the unarmed "innocents" around him.

The SF in afganistan are up against terrorists, therefore if they wear civialian uniform then I can't see this as a problem. We have, as someone pointed out, carried out Ops in civialians before against terrorists, not to mention the SOE ops of World War Two for example. The fighters we are up against in Afganistan should not be grouped alongside a standing army. They break every rule in the book anyway, so do they lose the protection of the conventions?

In the eye of the media and of the public we will always be damned for doing it one way and damned if we do it another. Although I strongly disagree with Awol!!! We should not discard our standards, rules and essentially morals just on a whim. We should always be erring on the side of good and proper, cheesy and lame definition I know, rather than lowering ourselves to others standards. In this way we can look back on our actions with pride, not shame.
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
#9
Trail Boots
Rohan trousers
polo shirt
sand coloured 'fishing vest'
black and sand check shemagh
wrap around Oakleys


No No ... I am REALLY not in the CIA.........
 
#10
Irrespective of who the enemy are, whether we are engaged in "war" or "offensive operations", surely we should have the right to use whatever tactics the operational environment dictate to protect our guys, and aid them in their task.

Granted, you can't make an omlette without breaking eggs, but it is preferable to break as many enemy eggs as possible whilst lining our own basket with a thick layer of Kevlar?

IMHO, those who engage in terrorism should be re-classified outside of the human race, to ensure that they cannot claim their "Human Rights". As I see it, they lose all rights when they engage in terrorism...
 
#11
IMHO if the Terrorists treated captured soldiers under the rights of the Geneva convention, then yes SF should wear uniform.
Whats the chances of that happening.

SK
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
#12
The point here is that operating in civilian clothes is fine - even if just to make movement easier - after all we all travelled around in NI in civvies on simple admin moves etc. The problem comes if military operators pretend to be NGOs i.e. assume the emblems and status of aid workers such as ICRC or MSF in order to gain a degree of protection from being 'neutral' (not that that has stopped those organisations losing people either).
 
#13
chimera said:
The point here is that operating in civilian clothes is fine - even if just to make movement easier - after all we all travelled around in NI in civvies on simple admin moves etc. The problem comes if military operators pretend to be NGOs i.e. assume the emblems and status of aid workers such as ICRC or MSF in order to gain a degree of protection from being 'neutral' (not that that has stopped those organisations losing people either).
I think he's got it!
 
#14
Afraid I'm not fully up to speed on all the legality of this and other subtle points.

Couldn't the NGO's fly/wear/display an emblem that was recognised as neutral? I'm sure there are some non specific emblems such as Civil Defence and similar or perhaps they could use the red cross/crescent. Besides I'm pretty sure they don't carry arms. That should be a big giveaway to many, and the presence of women amongst them.

Feel it wouldn't matter anyway, the OPFOR in many conflicts regard NGOs as part of the "invading" forces anyway so it doesn't matter if we wear uniform or not.

In these operations there is no middle ground for NGO's to operate on. The mind set of the OPFOR tends to be if you are not with us, you are against us.

chimera wrote
[/quote]The problem comes if military operators pretend to be NGOs i.e. assume the emblems and status of aid workers such as ICRC or MSF in order to gain a degree of protection from being 'neutral'
Has this actually happened? If so who ever was responsible needs a kicking!

Agree with ghost-rider ref status of terrorists (esp in actual engagements), but still say we should always play the good guy. If we don't, next thing you know we'll rocket a whole street just for one or two *********.
 
#15
When you start restricting the sneakys, that's when they lose their worth, these lads are hardcore, they do what they need to to get the job done, as long as they keep getting the jbo done, they could dress up in clown outfits for all I care.
 
#16
If a country is a signer of the Geneva Conventions, but the enemy in war is not, is that country bound to the Conventions? Is his enemy bound to the conventions by default?

I think not.

The signer of the Conventions may be expected to operate and work within the "spirit" of the Conventions, but the Conventions do not apply in full effect if both sides and all players are not signers.
 
#17
chocolate_frog said:
I believe in Mogadishu, Somalia, once it became known that the yanks would not shoot unarmed civialians, especially women and children, they would form shields of unarmed civialians around snipers.
In Iraq some guys in my Squadron drove into an ambush where there were a load of kids suddenly let loose on a deserted freeway, as they ran towards the convoy a section strength of Iraqi millitia popped out of a ditch by the side of the road and opened fire. Luckily the lead vehicle had sensed something was wrong and had stopped some way away, and managed to reverse out of trouble and away from the scene, followed by the others in the convoy.

They could have opened fire, killing the insurgents, along with countless kids, but they didn't, because that would be wrong. That is what the conventions come down to, what is right and what is wrong in the fu*ked mess that is war.
 
#18
307 said:
When you start restricting the sneakys, that's when they lose their worth, these lads are hardcore, they do what they need to to get the job done, as long as they keep getting the jbo done, they could dress up in clown outfits for all I care.
Agree in general, but I think there's more to it than that.

There would be no excuse IMO for special forces actively masquerading as IO or NGO staff, were that to happen. (Incidentally, it would be a criminal offence under both UK law and US federal law to misuse the Red Cross/Red Crescent symbols, although there is surely no suggestion this has happened.)

I see nothing wrong in, for example, special forces operators wearing similar clothing to friendly indigenous forces they are operating with: no need to stand out unnecessarily. Low-key national emblems could make this 'legal' anyway.

Leaving aside all questions of morality and the Geneva Conventions, the withdrawal of IOs/NGOs for security reasons is harmful to coalition objectives. Medecins sans Frontieres have withdrawn from Afghanistan after 24 years managing to operate under the Soviet Occupation and the Taliban. Both sides of the issue are covered on this link from a respected British military studies source: http://www.rusi.org/studies/transatlantic/commentary/ref:C41090E10A5ECC/

The enemy must take the entire blame for appalling deliberate attacks on aid workers. Aid organisations have argued however that coalition countries have contributed to blurring the previously-clear distinction between military and humanitarian operations. Colin Powell famously described the NGO community as "part of the combat team": he meant it kindly, and in some senses was only speaking the truth.

One practical problem is that except for those who are issued with a distinctive uniform, civilian workers tend to wear much the same clothing in the field as the "CIA clothes" described in an earlier post. Consider what boots and clothing you would pack yourself for a civilian field mission in Afghanistan: nobody wants to have to dress up as an ice cream man if they can help it!

'Blue-on-Blue' could be another factor to consider.
 
#19
Like Mao's revolutionary fighters, Unconventional and Unorthrodox Military Organsiations will need to swim in a sea of people in order to operate.

In some PSOs certain NGOs have also been the first to complain that the military, by carrying arms and wearing uniform also make their life difficult for them. So which is it? we seem to be on the verge of another Mrs Merton-like " big debate".

( I have heard that certain line regiments have started wearing green instead of scarlett - how ungentlemanly!!) However, as Chimera has pointed out I can't really see how anyone dressed like this:
Trail Boots
Rohan trousers
polo shirt
sand coloured 'fishing vest'
black and sand check shemagh
wrap around Oakleys
could possibly be regarded as being undercover??
( the M4 carbine can aslo be a bit of a giveaway)

If you go back to the original "keeni meeni" operations they even used potassium permangenate to alter the hue of their skin. Will the NGOs also now want to legislate what language, dialect and accent these people are allowed to speak?

This is more about how NGO's operate than it is ever anything to do with low intensity operations, and I think that Chocolate_frog's suggestion of an NGO specific emblem, hat or T shirt would help to close this issue off. I have seen enough NGO and G5 aid handed out to to individuals known to be corrupt, to know that SF, CIMIC, Info + Media Ops, Int, Force Protection and NGOs need to work more closely.

Mutual collaboration and not mutual constraint should be the way ahead.

A military lawyers website!!!!
Perhaps we should be taking a view from the Army Management Accountants website before moving to the next checkpoint??
 
#20
chocolate_frog said:
In Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan and now in Iraq we are up against terrorists, not armies.
Let me be controversial...

The majority of those we are against in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afganistan and Iraq (and dare I say it, Northern Ireland?) are no more terrorists than were WWII resistance fighters.

They are people defending their homeland against (what they perceive to be) an invading army.

Labelling them as "terrorists" is polical spin to justify further action, IMO - many Iraqis (etc) will perceive us as being terrorists... after all, it was the British and American forces who wreaked death and destruction on the CivPop :oops:

I do not, in any way, seek to justify the actions of Bin Laden, Hussein, Mladic et al but labelling averyone who is against us a "terrorist" does us no help.
 

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