Tying the hands of Marines in Afghanistan

I’m not a counter-insurgency expert. I’m not current or former military. I have little experience managing the beloved Elm Street snowball fights between the north and south side of the street. But you’ve got to ask, why do Marines have to monitor a house for 72 hours to ensure civilians are not around before an air strike is approved?

I’m not sure how our guys know the difference between fighters and civilians in Afghanistan, it’s to the benefit of the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters to quickly drop their radio and AK to “blend in.” If we wanted to set up a scenario where our military troops would be engaged in a battle that could drag on forever – a quagmire if you will – is this it?

As a reminder, President Obama wants our fighting forces out of Afghanistan in 16 months.

From the Washington Post, via CBS News since the WaPo article has a changed URL or is for subscribers only. Hat tip to Sweetness & Light.

To the Marines of Bravo Company, the black-and-white video footage from a surveillance drone seemed to present the perfect shot: more than a dozen armed insurgents exiting a building and heading to positions to attack U.S. and Afghan forces seeking to wrest control of this Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

Facing stiff resistance from Taliban fighters, the Marines radioed for permission to call in an airstrike on the insurgents at midday Monday. It appeared to be the sort of clear opportunity that would have prompted a rapidly executed bombing run during the Iraq war, or even in the first seven years of this conflict.

But not anymore: Officers at the Marine headquarters deemed the insurgents to be too close to a set of houses. In the new way the United States and its NATO allies are waging the Afghan war, dropping a bomb on or near a house is forbidden unless troops are in imminent danger of being overrun, or they can prove that no civilians are inside. …

Not seeing any civilians on a video feed from a drone or through one’s rifle scope is no longer enough. Under a tactical directive McChrystal issued last summer, troops must verify that there are no civilians inside a house by watching it for at least 72 hours to establish a “pattern of life” before an airstrike will be authorized.

No sane person has a taste for war nor civilian casualties, but the enemy use our rules of engagement against us to slow us down and make it difficult to take out the bad guys.

The bad guys are patient. President Obama – and many Americans – are not. I ask, if we do not win this war, what do you expect from the radical Islamic fundamentalists one or two decades from now?

The bad guys are patient.

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