The rules of engagement (ROEs) governing a U.S. soldier's response to enemy fighters in Afghanistan has made that country more dangerous for U.S. soldiers under the Obama administration.
I was recently able to discuss this with members of a Cavalry Scout Platoon that was on the ground near Camp Wright in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
They gave me numerous examples of how the ROEs by which they must abide not only make their jobs harder, but put their lives at increased and unnecessary risk:
During the Bush administration, we were able to engage terrorists planting IEDs with greater ease. Now, if we see two guys on the side of the road and it looks like they're planting an IED, we are told to wait -- because they might be farmers.
It's like our goal is to kill them with kindness. We're going to win Afghans over with money, clinics, roads, etc., instead of winning their confidence by killing the Taliban or the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG).
I asked for a couple of examples of the worst of the worst regarding current ROEs, and here's what I was told:
We have certain counter-insurgency (COIN) techniques that support the Afghan population by removing the terrorists from their midst. COIN involves clearing the enemy out, keeping the enemy out, and helping the people get on their feet once the threat is removed (clear, hold, develop).
However, under the current ROEs, while we hold the area we've cleared, redlines are set beyond which we can't venture. This creates a perimeter beyond which the enemy remains untouchable.
The enemy literally sits outside those lines and waits for us leave so they can move back in.
Another problem is that once we've cleared a place, we only hold it for a short time before we move on to the next place in order to show "progress." The bad news is that this "progress" might look good on paper, but it doesn't involve the aggressive killing of the enemy which is necessary if COIN is to be carried out the way it was designed.
The members of the Calvary Scout Platoon provided one other breath-taking example of how the current ROEs literally put our troops at the mercy of the enemy:
In country, we have Escalation of Force Kits. These keep people away in a non-lethal manner. To do that, they used to contain "KEEP BACK" signs we'd put on our trucks during a convoy and the kits also had small flares we could fire. These things were taken away and instead we were told to drive with the same courtesy we would use if driving in the U.S.
That means if cars get backed up behind us, we are to pull over and let them pass.
This takes our buffer -- our zone of safety -- completely away. Because once we pull over, the cars get to pass right up against us and that opens the door for suicide bombers, suicide bombs, and gun fire.
We allow people to get so close to our vehicles that we have no time to react should they try to do something.
As we continued to talk, one of the members said: "Joe Biden said he'd flown over Kunar Province like that was something big. The men on the ground were getting shot at while Biden was flying over."