This announcement about changes to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for Afghanistan has caused a lot of consternation
The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will soon formally order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians, a U.S. official said Monday.
McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if the U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger and must return fire, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith
Certainly I can understand the problems created by unintentional civilian casualties, especially in a tribal culture like Afghanistan. What I don't understand, however, is an order which all but outlines the new tactics of the enemy.
I mean, you tell me, where, if possible, would you initiate all of your contact from now on if you're the Taliban?
I assume there will be additional tactical changes to deny them what seems on the surface a big advantage, and this is not simply retreat but re-tooling. Since we know that the Talibs and AQ take people hostage and then attack us from their houses, maybe flattening the house with a 2,000 pounder and wiping out a family that wished they were anywhere else isn't the most cunning plan. That coming from the King of Dead Tangos, I know. But walk with me on this one.
We have killed many tangos there, scads even and yet they train more across the border and we kill more. The madrassas are full and the extremists keep coming. McChrystal has made a couple of things clear, first he is taking a long war view. We will see if the administration and the Congress support that, but he is planning for a long haul. He has said he wants to create a system where cadres learn an area and stay to exploit the knowledge, but more importantly the relationships they build. That is the key. They may rotate back for some R&R, but then they return to the same place and the same people.
He is also working the clear, hold and build concept. Local knowledge coupled with shared suffering and danger equals rapport and trust of the populace. Dead civilians destroys this.
Now will this change to ROE about bringing scunion powder down on houses we are attacked from get some more of our troops killed? Yes it will, in the short run. But if we ever want to stop the cycle of violence (I Know) we have to advance to the type of neighborhood-based strategy we used in Iraq. Every village we manage to co-inhabit is another where the Talibs can't attack us from the houses. Will it be more complicated and difficult to gain ground using less kinetic action? Yes again, but it is the only path I see to an end to endless iterations of the fighting season.
The tribes in Afghanistan have extraordiarily long memories and we have to be on the right side of the tally list of beefs. Every dead civilian counts exponentially. In the same way one "Aw Shit" erases a hundred "Attaboys" we can't have collateral damage if we can avoid it. Take the whole strategy together and it could work in 3-5 years In sh' allah.