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Washington Times - U.S. troops battle both Taliban and their own rules

U.S. troops battle both Taliban and their own rules


Sara A. Carter

KASHK-E-NOKHOWD, Afghanistan | Army Capt. Casey Thoreen wiped the last bit of sleep from his eyes before the sun rose over his isolated combat outpost.

His soldiers did the same as they checked and double-checked their weapons and communications equipment. Ahead was a dangerous foot patrol into the heart of Taliban territory.

"Has anyone seen the [Afghan National Army] guys?" asked Capt. Thoreen, 30, the commander of Blackwatch Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment with the 5th Stryker Brigade. "Are they not showing up?"

A soldier, who looked ghostly in the reddish light of a headlamp, shook his head.

"We can't do anything if we don't have the ANA or [the Afghan National Police]," said a frustrated Capt. Thoreen.

"We have to follow the Karzai 12 rules. But the Taliban has no rules," he said. "Our soldiers have to juggle all these rules and regulations and they do it without hesitation despite everything. It's not easy for anyone out here."

"Karzai 12" refers to Afghanistan's newly re-elected president, Hamid Karzai, and a dozen rules set down by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, to try to keep Afghan civilian casualties to a minimum.

"It's a framework to ensure cultural sensitivity in planning and executing operations," said Capt. Thoreen. "It's a set of rules and could be characterized as part of the ROE," he said, referring to the rules of engagement.

Dozens of U.S. soldiers who spoke to The Washington Times during a recent visit to southern Afghanistan said these rules sometimes make a perilous mission even more difficult and dangerous.

Many times, the soldiers said, insurgents have escaped because U.S. forces are enforcing the rules. Meanwhile, they say, the toll of U.S. dead and injured is mounting.

By mid-November, Capt. Thoreen's unit had lost five soldiers to suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Many more had been wounded and three of their Stryker vehicles had been destroyed.

In his Aug. 30 assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, which was leaked to the press, Gen. McChrystal said that the legitimacy of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had been "severely damaged … in the eyes of the Afghan people" because of "an over-reliance on firepower and force protection."

To succeed, he wrote, "ISAF will have to change its operating culture to pursue a counterinsurgency approach that puts the Afghan people first." This entails "accepting some risk in the short term [but] will ultimately save lives in the long term."

The Times compiled an informal list of the new rules from interviews with U.S. forces. Among them:

• No night or surprise searches.

• Villagers have to be warned prior to searches.

• ANA or ANP must accompany U.S. units on searches.

• U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first.

• U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present.

• Only women can search women.

• Troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch him placing an IED but not if insurgents are walking away from an area where explosives have been laid.


The mission

Without Afghan army or police, Capt. Thoreen and his troops were about to scuttle their mission: a house-to-house search for weapons and insurgents in the poor Pashtun village of Kashk-E Nokhowd, combined with an effort to win over the village's 200 residents by passing out toys, pencils and toiletries.

Finally, a small ragtag group of Afghan police arrived to accompany the Americans. The Afghan army was a no-show.

The police, some of whom who looked as young as 13 in their oversized uniforms, have a poor reputation in the local Maywand district for corruption and extortion.

"I'm guessing it was too early for the Afghan National Army to get up out of bed and help us out," Capt. Thoreen said. "They're probably still asleep. Unbelievable."

"Is everyone accounted for?" he asked. "Let's move — stagger your positions."

As the sun revealed the Red Mountain of Maywand, the soldiers headed out the gate of combat outpost Rath with weapons ready.

They set up a security perimeter near a more than century-old British fortress, whose crumbling walls overshadowed the small outpost.

In 1880, British and Indian forces fought and lost a battle here against Afghan forces led by a girl named Mawali, a Pashtun interpreter told The Times. He asked that his name not be used to protect himself and his family from Taliban retribution.

"She told the men in the village that they were not men if they would not raise their arms to fight the enemy," he said. "They were so embarrassed they went to battle and Pashtun farmers killed more than 6,000 British and Indian soldiers."

The interpreter said this Pashtun Joan of Arc was buried not far from the village. On this day, however, there was not a woman in sight. Under the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islam, women are discouraged from appearing in public and are supposed to be shrouded head to toe in burqas.

Because of the Karzai 12 rules, U.S. forces have had to bring in American women to conduct searches of their Afghan counterparts.

So Cpl. Amy B. King, 42, a medic from Springfield, Mo.; Spc. Dionalyn O. Bird, 29, a cook from Bloomfield, Conn.; Spc. Toni Winkler, 20, a medic from South Carolina; and Sgt. Frevette J. Skelton, 31, a cook, entered the village with Capt. Thoreen's men.

"We have the women say their names before we search them because sometimes it's a man under the burqa," said Cpl. King. "In some cases, there are weapons on them."

"It's OK for the insurgents to use their women to hide weapons but it's not OK for us [men] to search them," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Yost, 27, of Shelton, Wash. "So now, we have to break our own rules and bring women into combat just so they can search the women."
 

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More needless BS.

When we get serious about winning, they'll drop the stupid stuff.

Until then, its "political correctness" as usual.
 

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When did they get our constitution? May I remind them that this is a war, not a game.
 

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I believe these rules of engagement will get many of our troops kills and wounded.
 

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BS and politics.:mad:
 

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I agree...:bs2: :bs2: :bs2: :bs2: :bs2: :bs2:, because the ones making these rules don't have to use them at their desks.:hand1:
 

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This is what happens when war is fought by lawyers! :mad:
 

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Um, no!


• No night or surprise searches.
I personally would wait until prayer time then shoot them in the, well the end sticking up in the air.

• Villagers have to be warned prior to searches.
No friggin way, I'll warn them after I have searched them and while I am searching them I'll have a team of Marine snipers whoa re bored watching me from 1k yards.

• ANA or ANP must accompany U.S. units on searches.
Then they better have their butts up before dawn when we move out for that surprise night patrol.

• U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first.
This one is easy. Send PsyOps in to drop pamphlets that say "If you have a weapon on you and we see it we will assume you are our enemy and will kill you!" Then we go on surprise night patrols.


• U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present.
Again, PsyOps goes in and says, if you see someone with a gun we strongly suggest you get away from them because we are going to shoot at them. Then we go on a surprise night patrol.

• Only women can search women.
Fine, but you better dang well be a woman and not an insurgent in disguise, or our woman Soldier is going to shoot you where you stand.


• Troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch him placing an IED but not if insurgents are walking away from an area where explosives have been laid
No way. If they are insurgents they will be shot, with or without an IED. Unless we catch them and then lay them over their buried IED while we try every radio frequency until we find the right one.

War is dirty business, I only want to know 2 things:

  1. Did we win?
  2. If we lost, what do we need to do to not loose next time?
 

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Politicians,let's pull out and see how long Karzai lasts before the Taliban execute him
 

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Those ROE will only result in Americans dying while carrying out useless missions. If that's how Karzi(sp) wants it, simply tell him we'll pull out totally and if he doesn't take care of the Taliban, when they take over the country and then cause a problem for the US we'll be back in full force taking care of business - which way does he think will benefit his country the most.
 

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So they are protected from no-knock warrants and were aren't?

Michael
There is no reason to protect them from no-knock warrants....there is also no good reasons to do away with no-knock warrants here. There are too many good reasons to keep them, here and there.
 

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Yes, at first look these rules are tough to swallow. However, we're fighting a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. The Taliban seeks to destabilize and and undermine the legitimate GOA. You defeat an insurgency by denying the insurgents the support of the people, without which no insurgency will succeed. The "new" rules are part and parcel of COIN and are designed to gain the trust and goodwill of the people. It may or may not work in the rural areas of Afghanistan, but what we were doing was not working. Every civilian killed, no matter how accidental, damaged OUR legitimacy in country. The ROE is designed to significantly reduce the impact on the civ population.

Again, I'm not saying it'll work, but that's the goal and a direction we need to take if we're going to turn it around.

And there are no good reasons to keep no-knock raids anywhere, especially here. They get innocent people shot and cops killed. Even if only 1 or 2 in 10 raids result in one of those outcomes, it's too many. They should be outlawed.
 
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