There are few things in life worth saying if they are not completely truthful. It came to me as a harsh reality when in the past few days I came to grips with this truth and that our combined efforts to force Congress to pay attention to the strategy/non-strategy in Afghanistan was off the mark. We have been fighting for a simple review of COIN and to question whether or not it is viable in this kind of environment and relaying specific evidence of the effect of it's ROE on our Warriors. The problem is that the ROE is affecting every Warrior on the plains of Afghanistan and is specifically responsible for EVERY U.S. AND NATO DEATH there.
Every Army assembled for combat must do several things if it is going to win:
1. Take the Commander's Intent statement and assemble a Strategy and Force component to complete a mission consistent with that Intent
2. Define the Battle Space
3. Control the Battle Space
4. Determine and Exploit the weaknesses of the enemy
5. Continue to pressure the enemy
6. Deftly employ every means and capability it possesses to Locate, Close with and Destroy the Enemy.
7. Be relentless and unforgiving in it's determination to force the enemy to do it's will
As of June of 2009, at the latest, CentCom and ISAF made a deliberate decision, under the leadership of this sitting President, to not win. It even went as far as to redefine the war effort and to expunge words like 'win', 'success', 'terrorism' and 'Islamic Extremists' from the lexicon. It further determined that the new 'goal' was to protect Afghan civilians at all cost. It included a vigorous plan to 're-build' Afghanistan as a nation from the very foundations of its government. It instituted a theater-wide, controversial doctrine known as Counter Insurgency which has a historical record of failure in all except one engagement and fielded an ROE (rules of engagement) that all but eliminate the use of Air Support and Field Artillery Support for US and NATO forces except in the 'safest' possible applications (no civilians around...problematic when you consider the Taliban are civilians).
It has been said there has been a 'resurgence' on the field of battle by the Taliban; that they essentially re-constituted/regrouped and have re-emerged refreshed and emboldened in the past year. That is a deception. This suggests that, all other things remaining constant, this group of murderous thugs conjured new found courage and purpose. This is patently untrue! The reality is that the Taliban are the same as they were. What changed was our desire to prosecute this war as though we intended to win. What changed was our focus. The original Commander's Intent was to go into Afghanistan and destroy/scatter/remove Al Qaida from Afghanistan and to hold those who aided them accountable for their actions, ie the Taliban. That mission took a dramatic turn in 2009 when we chose to seek the good graces of the Afghan people instead of seeking justice for the assault on our land by Islamic Hordes.
1. By refusing to doggedly follow the steps outlined above, we effectively turned over control of the battle space to the Taliban. Because of this they are free to set more IED's than they would have been and free to establish yet more ambush sites thus placing our Warriors in a far more dangerous environment (See Step 3).
2. Intentionally publishing the ROE and our intent to no longer kill but protect, we have allowed the Taliban to reassert themselves and given them the opportunity to exploit our well-published weaknesses (See Step 4).
3. By diverting attention from Pursuit of the Enemy to Security Patrols in hamlets, towns and villages, we have opened lanes of effort for the Taliban to pursue us and given them freedom to set even more IED's and to pressure the locals into participating (See Step 5).
4. By removing our most valuable supporting fires from the equation, in the most desperate of situations, we have allowed more Taliban to survive engagements (See Step 6).
What we have done in the past year is to allow the enemy the opportunity to re-consider it's capability, given them maneuver space, garner support from foreign sources and increase their potential with more advanced weapons (see stories about Taliban sniper capability in British held areas of Khandahar). In addition; the number of aircraft now harassed by Taliban fire has increased making even medivacs difficult. Add to that, the Red Cross's insistence on aiding the enemy and NATO field medical facilities being forced to include Taliban in Triage decisions and even the staunchest supporter of anti-american sentiment in this country has to question the sanity of the plan.
Given all of the above, it is clear that all US and NATO deaths in Afghanistan are directly and indirectly due to the institution of the current ROE and our having intentionally given control of the battle space to the Taliban. And it is intentional because there is no way a clear thinking military mind could not fully understand the ramifications of not continuing to pressure the enemy, keeping him off balance, with every weapon in his arsenal.
The hard truth is that America's Sons and Daughters will continue to pay the ultimate price for high-minded thinkers, politicians and inept leadership until the true 'King' of the country, the Citizens decide they have had enough. And that is unlikely to happen until Islam is once again successful in attacking our homeland.
Far too many Americans have far too short a memory. God protect our Warriors.
Semper Fidelis;John Bernard