The other night, I was watching a television show called Bomb Patrol Afghanistan EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal). It was about our military EOD personnel that patrol areas of Afghanistan for IED’s & other explosive devices used to kill & injure our troops.
It was quite interesting to see the technology at their disposal & the bravery it takes just to be out there on patrol.
Sadly, this is not the purpose of this article. Throughout the program I was dumbstruck regarding what seemed to be the Rules of Engagement for our guys.
What put me over the edge was a portion of the show highlighting soldiers that had obtained a tip of an explosive vest being dropped off on a bridge to be picked up by another party. The soldiers waited for hours. No drop occurred. They then received a tip that the drop would happen that evening in a different area.
Next, we see the guys in their Humvees. It’s pitch black & they are using their nightvision equipment.
Afghanistan-Kunar Night Patrol
They are watching one individual beside a car in the desert with the trunk open. He picks up the explosive vest, places it in his trunk & begins driving. The soldiers explain the vehicle is now effectively a car bomb, which could be driven directly at them.
They follow him, where he stops, drops the vest off on the side of the road & drives away. The soldiers begin to prep explosives inside their vehicle. One soldier steps out with the explosives in hand, walks up to vest in the dark, places the explosives on or near the vest & heads back to the vehicle. They detonate the vest & continue on.
I’m thinking to myself, what the crap is going on here? What are the Rules of Engagement over there?
It seems to me, the second the guy picked up the vest, he is the enemy. Open fire & take him out, detonating the vest at the same time. Letting him drive away should not be an option.
In 2009, the ROEs (Rules of Engagement) were as follows: The actual ROEs are said to be classified U.S. and NATO secrets,
Official Rules of Engagement
but based on individual soldier accounts, those restrictions included the following:
No night or surprise searches
Villagers are to be warned prior to searches
Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police must accompany U.S. units on searches
U.S. soldiers may not fire at insurgents unless they are preparing to fire first
U.S. forces cannot engage insurgents if civilians are present
Only women can search women
Troops can fire on insurgents if they catch them placing an improvised explosive device but not if insurgents walk away from where the explosives are.
Troops cannot fire on insurgents that lower or drop their weapons and walk or run away (leaving them, of course, to return later to continue to try to kill our troops).
After General Petraeus replaced Gen. McChrystal, the ROEs were supposed to have been modified to make it easier for our troops but little has changed.
What the Rules Should Be
According to soldiers’ accounts, the enemy knows these rules & they use them to their advantage all the time. Soldiers describe it as going into battle with one arm tied behind your back.
In one case, villagers had tipped off U.S. forces of the presence of a Taliban commander who was threatening village elders.
To get permission to go after him, U.S. troops had to get 11 separate Afghan, U.S. and international forces’ approval to the plan. The approval, however, did not come until well into the next day. By then, the Taliban commander had moved on, to the consternation of the villagers who had provided the tip. Observers have claimed that it can take some 96 hours to acquire all the permissions to act.
In another case, insurgents planting an IED had detected the presence of U.S. forces and immediately began leaving the area, tossing evidence of their preparations along the way. U.S. forces could not fire on them.
In still another case, 4 Taliban fighters were firing at a group of Marines from a mud hut in an Afghan town. When they were finished shooting (maybe they ran out of ammo), they simply laid down their weapons, walked out of the building & blended into the population. The Marines could not fire on them.
Let me just go out on a limb here and say, we will never win a war again. Bring all the troops home. When we put more emphasis on the safety of everyone but ourselves, we might as well give up and come home.
If our politicians insist on sending our military all over the globe to fight, let them fight. Let them bring overwhelming force to the enemy, claim victory & then come home.
We have the greatest fighting force in history. Just imagine what they could do if they were ever truly unleashed.