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Posts Tagged ‘surge’

Rules of (mis)engagement

Posted by Richard on June 22, 2010

A short time ago, the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan passed 1000, and the Brits just lost their 300th. Today was an especially deadly day for coalition troops, and this month is turning into one of the deadliest of the war. This is not unexpected. When the surge began, everyone predicted a rise in casualties. More troops engaging in more operations equals more casualties. 

But that alone may not be the full explanation. On Sunday, George Will reported on a troubling email from a non-commissioned officer in Afghanistan. The NCO cited several examples from his own battlefield experiences illustrating that the rules of engagement under which troops are operating are, in his words, "too prohibitive for coalition forces to achieve sustained tactical successes." Here's one of them: 

Receiving mortar fire during an overnight mission, his unit called for a 155mm howitzer illumination round to be fired to reveal the enemy's location. The request was rejected "on the grounds that it may cause collateral damage." The NCO says that the only thing that comes down from an illumination round is a canister, and the likelihood of it hitting someone or something was akin to that of being struck by lightning. 

The others are no less nonsensical and dangerous to the troops. In a counter-insurgency operation, it's both morally and practically important to minimize unnecessary civilian casualties. But there's such a thing as being stupid about it. When a group of villagers is, as in another of the NCO's examples, openly cheering for the enemy and harboring insurgents in their homes, being solicitous of their feelings is unlikely to win their hearts and minds — only to win their greater contempt. 

Right or left, hawk or dove, surely we can all agree that it's wrong to send soldiers to fight under rules that make it impossible for them to succeed and that greatly increase their chances of dying.

(HT: Vodkapundit)

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Iraq news too good to report

Posted by Richard on June 3, 2008

American casualties in Iraq fell to a five-year low in May. Prime Minister al Maliki has united large portions of the population across all ethnic groups. The Iraqi army successfully pulled off al Maliki's bold plan to reclaim Basra from the Mahdi Army. And both al Qaeda and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are on the run everywhere.

But there aren't many news stories about Iraq these days, and you'd be hard-pressed to find much information about these developments in the mainstream media. When the subject of the surge's success does come up, those invested in our defeat will say just about anything to explain it away. Case in point: Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, insisted that the positive developments in Iraq aren't due to the surge, but to Iran's "goodwill."

Bless their hearts, the editors of The Washington Post acknowledged the good news in a surprising (to me, at least) editorial Sunday (emphasis added):

THERE'S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks — which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war. [It's not odd to those of us who suspect there's an agenda behind the relentless coverage of bad news and ignoring of good.] While Washington's attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, routing the Shiite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qaeda. So many of its leaders have now been captured or killed that U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists have "never been closer to defeat than they are now."

Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained "special groups" that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. It is — of course — too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments — and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the "this-war-is-lost" caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Read the whole thing

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