US casualties in Afghanistan provoke rage and frustration

#1
Some insights regarding current ROE in Afghanistan:


US casualties in Afghanistan provoke rage and frustration


A hunger for revenge is palpable among US Marines as casualties grow on the frontline of the battle against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. 'My men want revenge - that is only natural,' says First Lieutenant Aaron MacLean.



By Jason Gutierrez, south-east of Marjah for AFP
Published: 11:40AM GMT 01 Feb 2010

On a base near Marjah, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand province, Marines are grieving the deaths of a sergeant and corporal killed by the remote-controlled bombs that have become the scourge of the long-running conflict.

Commanders try to keep the men's rage in check, aware that winning over an Afghan public wary of the foreign military presence and furious about civilian casualties is as important as battlefield success.

"It causes a lot of frustration. My men want revenge - that is only natural," says First Lieutenant Aaron MacLean, 2nd Platoon commander of the 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment Charlie company.

"But I keep telling them that the rules are the rules for a reason. If we simply go crazy and start shooting at everything, in the long run we will lose this war because we will lose the support of the population."

He too is frustrated, accusing the Taliban of manipulating the rules of engagement by using women and children as shields and shooting from hidden positions before dropping their weapons and standing out in the open.

"They know we can't shoot them if they don't carry guns or without positive identification. They are fighting us at another level now," MacLean said.

MacLean recently led his unit on a routine foot patrol near Marjah, which is expected to be the scene of a major offensive this month.

What the Marines encountered was a likely precursor of the battle to come.

They were met by fierce gunfire from Taliban gunmen who pinned them down for three hours at the expense of two of their men.

One corporal stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). Military intelligence officials say that it is possible that 90 per cent of foreign soldiers' lives are currently being lost in this way.

The corporal's legs were blown off and he was thrown metres into the air.

A second IED killed a sergeant who rushed to the corporal's aid as bullets flew everywhere, MacLean said.

Three others were wounded in the clash, making it one of the bloodiest days for US Marines since President Barack Obama's announcement in December of a fresh troop surge in the war to eradicate the Taliban.

The death toll of foreign soldiers fighting in Afghanistan under US and Nato command reached 44 in January - the most in a month since the war began more than eight years ago.In January 2009 the figure was 25.

The number of Americans who died last month in the conflict now in its ninth year was almost double the number for January last year, at 29 compared with 15, according to the icasualties.org website, which keeps a running tally.

The US and Nato currently deploy 113,000 troops in Afghanistan, with another 40,000 due this year as part of a renewed strategy that emphasises development and the "reconciliation" of Taliban fighters.

Most of the incoming troops will be deployed in Helmand, which along with neighbouring Kandahar province has been the hub of the insurgency since the Taliban regime was removed from power in late 2001.

MacLean's unit contains some of the first Marinesto be sent into Helmand since the surge was announced.

On the day of the ambush, Marines hunkered down in tents inside the camp as information about the encounter came in.

Some had tears in their eyes as the names of casualties were made known. Others held tightly to their weapons and yelled at their enemy on the horizon.

"We were attacked treacherously. We came under fire from everywhere, but the rules of engagement prevent me from doing my job," said Lance Corporal Mark Duzick, who was in the unit that was ambushed.

Outside a tent housing the Marines' unit responsible for firing mortars stands an improvised cross bearing the inscription: "Here lies the 81st, death by stand down."

Last year was the worst yet for foreign troops fighting in Afghanistan, with 520 soldiers dead, up from 295 in 2008. More troops will mean more casualties, military experts say.

For the Afghans too 2009 was the deadliest, with the UN putting civilian deaths at 2,412 for the year, compared to 2,118 in 2008.

While most are caused by the Taliban, the insurgents exploit civilian casualties to spread distrust among the public for foreign and Afghan troops.

As the nature of the fight has changed, with the Taliban increasingly using suicide attacks and IEDs, there had been no traditional winter hiatus and General Zahir Azimi, a defence ministry spokesman, said that spring is likely to be ferocious.

"We will have the most intense clashes come the spring, and will shed the most blood this year," he said.
 
#2
That reads exactly like a comment from a Marine fighting in Vietnam in 1965. Things haven't changed; the guerillas still use the same "dirty" tactics and the americans still gets frustrated because they can't fight the set piece battles a la WW2 where they can achieve a clear cut victory through superior firepower.
 
#3
It neatly summarises why most counter-insurgency efforts fail. Success or failure depends on the locals, and a the moment they blame the foreigners for every death, no matter how caused. This is an information operation, not kinetic. The opposition get this, I remain to be convinced that we do.

Oh, and to be really cheerful I'd direct our cousins to the stats from NI. Achieving the "peace" we have today was only possible by accepting a loss ratio of 3:1 - in favour of the terrorist. If you're not prepared to take losses in AFG and then stand back to allow the locals to deal with the killers then just go home now.
 
#4
One_of_the_strange said:
It neatly summarises why most counter-insurgency efforts fail. Success or failure depends on the locals, and a the moment they blame the foreigners for every death, no matter how caused. This is an information operation, not kinetic. The opposition get this, I remain to be convinced that we do.

Oh, and to be really cheerful I'd direct our cousins to the stats from NI. Achieving the "peace" we have today was only possible by accepting a loss ratio of 3:1 - in favour of the terrorist. If you're not prepared to take losses in AFG and then stand back to allow the locals to deal with the killers then just go home now.
Given that 'success' in tactical operations is measured by the after-battle body count by some of our allies, you can see where strategic 'failure' is so easily achievable. :x
 
#5
One_of_the_strange said:
then just go home now.
wish we had, instead of a holding on to the phukking two-bit dependency culture (just like that other boil on the world's backside - arsecrakistan).
 
#6
fantassin said:
That reads exactly like a comment from a Marine fighting in Vietnam in 1965. Things haven't changed; the guerillas still use the same "dirty" tactics and the americans still gets frustrated because they can't fight the set piece battles a la WW2 where they can achieve a clear cut victory through superior firepower.
Really - the yanks had an RoE which prevented them from returning fire in Vietnam?

First I heard of it :?
 
#7
We are facing exactly the same enemy using old men and children to recce positions and check that command wires / IEDs are still in place. We also are unable to engage INS who are not positively identified as armed.

Annoyingly this is a war being fought in the glare of public scrutiny, many can identify the Taliban in a similiar way as the Vietcong and even the French resistance ( Freedom Fighters defending their homeland from foreign intervention). The fact that this is BS, does not prevent it being seen as having some basis in truth. We simply have to be better, be more clever, fight them on ground of our choice - when we choose to. Attack their weakness and destroy their base.

Simples!!!
 
#8
Whet said:
fantassin said:
That reads exactly like a comment from a Marine fighting in Vietnam in 1965. Things haven't changed; the guerillas still use the same "dirty" tactics and the americans still gets frustrated because they can't fight the set piece battles a la WW2 where they can achieve a clear cut victory through superior firepower.
Really - the yanks had an RoE which prevented them from returning fire in Vietnam?

First I heard of it :?
That's not what I am saying; but if you read books about the memoires of US servicemen in VN, they all have similar complaints to those we hear now. "Peasant by day and guerillas at night" was already a common gripe in the early 60s.
 
#10
Seem to remember in the 70's the PIRA used similar tactics using firing points from a kiddies playground whilst kids were playing. with women, kids & old codgers carrying hidden weapons to and from firing points. must be in the bad guys handbook
 
#11
Afghan casualties in Afghanistan provoke rage and frustration too...
 
#12
Whet said:
Really - the yanks had an RoE which prevented them from returning fire in Vietnam?

First I heard of it :?
There were RoE's in Vietnam but the calling of a Free Fire Zones was highly dubious to start with on a great many levels and later attempts to mitigate the problems thus created proved ineffective.

The Vietnam debacle obviously haunts the US Military to the current day in terms of RoE's. Even the Russians, not entire strangers to the odd spot of wholesale destruction, struggled in Afghanistan for not entirely different reasons.

"The practice of establishing free fire zones was instituted because many villages in what was then South Vietnam willingly provided safe haven to Viet Cong fighters. Some, by contrast, were forcibly occupied by marauding bands of guerrillas, who used the villages for cover. Many more were devotedly anti-Communist. Yet, the American forces often had fundamental difficulty in distinguishing among any of these villagers. The fact that the guerrillas commonly dressed in black cotton pajama-style outfits, like those worn by most Vietnamese peasants, served only to heighten the confusion.

But despite the GIs’ confusion, international law enjoins armies to avoid targeting any but military objectives and assures protection to civilians, in almost any circumstance. Free fire zones as defined by Department of Defense doctrine and the rules of engagement are a severe violation of the laws of war for two reasons. First, they violate the rule against direct attack of civilians by presuming that after civilians are warned to vacate a zone, then anyone still present may lawfully be attacked. The rule prohibiting direct attacks on civilians provides no basis for a party to a conflict to shift the burden by declaring a whole zone to be “civilian free.” And second, they violate the rule against indiscriminate attack by presuming without justification in the law that warning civilians to leave eliminates the legal requirements to discriminate in targeting its weapons.

Where the protection of the Geneva Conventions does not provide a mantle to civilians is when they take “a direct part in hostilities.” There were, of course, occasions when Vietnamese civilians directly attacked U.S. troops, but those which drew the attention of news reporters were overwhelmingly those in which a village was labeled a free fire zone and innocent lives were taken in outbursts of indiscriminate fire and brutality.

Faced with this negative coverage and with severe difficulty in enforcing international laws limiting the imposition of free fire zones, as well as other elements of the rules of engagement, the Pentagon over time added more directives to its pocket cards: a village could not be bombed without warning even if American troops had received fire from within it; a village known to be Communist could be attacked only if its inhabitants were warned in advance; only once civilians had been removed could a village be declared a free fire zone and shelled at will.

According to an article by Maj. Mark S. Martens of the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate-General’s Corps and a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School, all these rules were “radically ineffective.” Often they were simply ignored. In some cases, illiterate peasants couldn’t understand leaflets dropped to warn them that their villages would soon become a free fire zone. In other cases, hurried, forcible evacuations left large numbers of defenseless civilians behind, to be killed by bombing, shelling, small arms assaults, or burning. “The only good village,” went one bit of cynical GI wisdom, “is a burned village.”

Ineffective efforts to rein in the GIs’ propensity to create free fire zones in Vietnam resulted in a sense among many Vietnamese as well as Americans that U.S. forces were undisciplined. More important, perhaps, the widely touted grand plan to capture the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese was immeasurably diminished by the perception—let alone the outbreaks of reality—that Americans did not value Vietnamese lives.

Toward the end of the 1960s, the term free fire zone itself was dropped from the U.S. military lexicon in no small part because that doctrine embraced actions that the United States today would regard as illegal. Subsequent U.S. military manuals and rules of engagement, whether for ground, air, or naval forces, tend to track quite closely with the central principle of international humanitarian law on civilian immunity and the prohibition on the targeting of civilians. "


http://www.crimesofwar.org/thebook/free-fire-zones.html
 
#13
The French had the same experience in Algeria. Large areas of the country, especially a 30 km strip along the border with Tunisia, were "prohibiten areas". Hunting commandos partly made up of former "turned" guerillas roamed those areas looking for the enemy and either destroying it or calling CAS; over a million locals were put in "resettlement camps" often in very bad conditions...tactically it was a success but on the international front it was not...interstingly, one of the most vocal opponent to French presence and tactics in Algeria, especially during his 2 July 1957 speech, was a certain senator John F Kennedy...glass and stones in less than 10 years....
 
#14
One_of_the_strange said:
It neatly summarises why most counter-insurgency efforts fail. Success or failure depends on the locals, and a the moment they blame the foreigners for every death, no matter how caused. This is an information operation, not kinetic. The opposition get this, I remain to be convinced that we do.

Oh, and to be really cheerful I'd direct our cousins to the stats from NI. Achieving the "peace" we have today was only possible by accepting a loss ratio of 3:1 - in favour of the terrorist. If you're not prepared to take losses in AFG and then stand back to allow the locals to deal with the killers then just go home now.

Often I find that military units are used to train state police in the states. I think this is a case where the police need to train the military.

This needs to be treated less like a war, and more like a criminal operation against organized crime.

Some of this is being done, where when those folks that throw down weapons walk in the open get their hands swabbed for powder residue, locking down parts of a town to find the bad guys, etc.

I just really think that the military needs to rethink it's tactics, one village at a time, provide security, gain the trust of the locals, and move on.

What's killing us is time tables to "achieve success" which should be measured in decades, but is measures in months/years.
 

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