Petraeus to Loosen Controversial Afghan ROE?

Fox News, outgoing Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s least favorite news channel (he banned it from the televisions in his HQ), reports that one of the first moves of incoming Afghan commander Gen. David Petraeus will be to loosen the controversial rules of engagement in Afghanistan to allow more artillery and air strikes. Troops in Afghanistan complain they’re fighting with one hand tied behind their back because of the various “directives” issued by McChrystal restricting the use of indirect fires in an effort to curtail civilian casualties.

Not so fast, reports Leo Shane with Stars and Stripes, who asked Petraeus’ spokesman, Col. Erik Gunhus, if the Fox report is true. Gunhus said Petraeus has made no such decision. Once he arrives in Kabul (he still has to pass Senate confirmation on Tuesday, which will be a formality), Petraeus will review the ROE and determine whether they should be modified.

At a Pentagon press conference yesterday, Joint Chief’s chair Adm. Mike Mullen said Petraeus is mindful of the sensitivity of Afghans to civilian casualties and that he also signed off on McChrystal’s directives, that have ranged from instructing troops on polite driving techniques on Afghan roads to curtailing raids on Afghan homes in the middle of the night, but that he also has the flexibility to “make changes as he sees appropriate.”

— Greg Grant

  • Clement

    excellent journalistim from Fox News once again! lol sike
    Anyways looks like Dave Petraeus is gonna take a measured and reasonable approach to this issue, thinking before acting instead of the other way around. Hope he does well as the new guy in charge.

  • Drake1

    Didn’t Gen. Petraeus sign off on the restrictive ROE to begin with?

  • Lane

    So its important for batallions to RIPs (Reliefs in place) but not Generals? Why wouldn’t they both be going over what works and what doesnt…

  • Nolan Nelson

    Successful counterinsurgency warfare first provides security by destroying or expelling the insurgent forces. Regardless of time or place, people suffering in these lawless, feral regions evaluate security by whoever is most lethal in firefights. Their allegiance goes to whoever wins the battles, regardless of civilian deaths due to collateral damage or to deliberate executions by an insurgency seeking to retain control. Only by crossing the armed conflict boundary at this cruelest point in a revolutionary war, can the next phases of counterinsurgency warfare commence to win the hearts and minds of the civilian population.

  • Nolan Nelson

    Therefore, the Senate Committee on Armed Services should ask General Petraeus the following questions.

    Will NCO’s be able to call for illumination rounds to reveal enemy firing positions?

    Will troops be allowed a round in the chamber of their weapons?

    Will troops be allowed to engage insurgents in the act of burying a roadside bomb?

    Will troops engaged in combat now be able to call bombing and strafing runs to extricate themselves and win firefights?

    Will crucial decisions be made by warriors in contact with the enemy, or by staff officers in remote bunkers?

    Will you obey Articles 28 and 29 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which say Protected Persons within the enemy’s physical control cannot be used to render certain points and areas immune from military operations, or will you serve a political agenda?

    Will our troops be given permission to win, or will the survivors be ordered to leave in 18 months after being regarded with derision and contempt by the Afghans?

  • Philo

    What’s with the slap at Fox news in this article? The NYT said the same thing, and the Pentagon briefing obviously left the door open to that. Meh.

    Anyways, McChrystal was an obamatron, so I fail to see how any of these is a major deal. The modified/mutated version of COIN that the POTUS signed off on may not have been the right mix.

    Personally, I have more faith in Petraeus.

    On a side note, I have to ask Clement above, what do you think of the reporting of Petraeus now? Before, when he was working for the “other team” he was the anit-christ, a failure, useless, etc. Now appointing him is a brilliant, super stupendous, totally awesome move. “excellent journalism” indeed…

  • pedestrian

    I’m pretty confident by now McChrystal is a pro-Democrat liberal. His background in Harvard Universtiy, extreme humanitarian soft power strategy, and the banning of Fox News is enough to prove it.

  • Our U.S. Civilian Government are the ones to blame for al-Qa’ida, Osama Bin Laden, and the Taliban still being operational. Our new ROE in Afghaniststan and Pakistan should be the systematic destruction of these fanatical terrorist organizations. We need small arms like M16A4’s in 20 inch barrels firing out for a distance of 300 meters with attached M203’s grenade launchers. The FN SCAR S 7.62X51mm can reach out to 600 meters. Ask a rancher or hunter what a good scout rifle can do .We should have real battle rifles. Like the NATO 7.62X51mm FN SCAR MK17 LB, Heckler & Koch HK417, or Knight’s Armament M110 SASS, all in 20 inch barrel. Range ~800 to ~1000. A light portable machine gun is required like the FN MK 48 Mod 1 with the medium M240G machine gun. Our troops will need M32 Multiple Grenade Launchers, AT4’s and AT4-CS’s, Javelins, M252 81MM mortars, plenty of hand grenades and good air cover for our troops. On our MRAP’s and Strykers we need M2 Brownings, Javelins, MK-19 Mod 3 grenade launchers, and Dillon Aero Inc M134 minigun, M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrier 120mm and 81mm. It’s time to quit messing around and catch or kill Osama and his cohorts.

    • Oblat

      >Our new ROE in Afghaniststan and Pakistan should be the systematic destruction of these fanatical terrorist organizations.

      This combined with longer barrels is surely the magic formula !
      If only you had mentioned this earlier 8 years of war could have been saved.
      Where have you been all that time ?

    • William C.

      Everybody needs a M203? That adds too much weight for everybody to carry. However in the hills of Afghanistan we should be moving back to 20 inch barrels like on the M16A4. The M4A1 carbine may be more suitable for Iraq, but our troops should have that extra range the M16 provides in Afghanistan.

    • TMB

      Well that’s an impressive laundry list of weapons – probably right out of the Call of Duty manual. Think you can elaborate on the 10 words you actually spent talking about the Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan, or is “we need to kill and win” all you’re going to contribute?

  • blight

    Well, if McChrystal returns to boots on the grounds I won’t mind so much. In principle asking troops to do “infantry work” instead of simply resort to bombard and occupy is a good idea, but it’s asking us to throw away all our advantages whilst enabling to Taliban to sacrifice nothing.

    Can you imagine how bad the losses would have been in Vietnam with such an ROE like this? The NVA wouldn’t even need to resort to hugging tactics.

  • M.G.Halvorsen

    Hate to pop your bubble there, Blight, but, for a time there WAS such a tight ROE in place in Vietnam. We always seem to forget the lessons of History, and are condemned again and again to repeat those lessons. Seriously, we have at war with a population that is living in the 13th Century…and the concept of “mercy” baffles and amuses them. Proper PsyOps in this atmosphere calls for something to get their undivided attention: Burying Taliban/Al Qiada dead in 55 Gallon druns filled with pig’s blood should do the trick. Remember: “When you got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

    • blight

      Not surprised; though the popular memory of Vietnam is the word “free fire zone” (though if I recall correctly, that was more in the DMZ and near the Hoi Chi Minh trail than in the other sectors of Vietnam).

      I would prefer to spread rumors of American bombs dispersing a mist of pigs blood along the Afghan/Pakistani border. Or land mines. They’ll just make something about “Allah forgives the sins of the blessed martyr jihadis” and interpret some suras out of context (or omit them entirely) to make it a-ok.

    • Oblat

      The defeatists love to bring up Vietnam – Yea sure lets adopt tactics from the Gold Standard for Failure.

    • Nidi

      “Burying Taliban/Al Qiada dead in 55 Gallon druns filled with pig’s blood should do the trick.”

      Far from demoralizing them, this would almost certainly double, if not triple their recruitment pool. We would lose the support of all Muslim countries that we currently work with. People that are ambivalent with us would hate us, those that hate us would despise us. If you make more enemies in your attempt to destroy your current enemies, you will never win.

    • Rick W

      One of the lessons of history:

      There were fifteen million people in Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded. The Russians killed over a million, wounded God only knows how many millions more and ran another seven or so million out of the country. It is safe to say that at least two out of every Afghans were directly touched by Soviet terror tactics. Oddly enough the Russians got there butts kicked.

  • The War in Afghanistan is nothing like the War in Vietnam except that the Taliban are fanatics like Sir Charles and NVA. No jungles, but rough open and mountainous terrain, like Korea, which can temporize and galvanize a soldier or destroy him. Believe me the Taliban and al-Qa’ida are a product of their environment. They are galvanized … we had better get that way too!

  • AAK

    As if the ROE are the reason for going around in circles in Afghanistan. As mentioned above, the Soviets weren’t shy about shooting anything that moved; didn’t help. This is just some excuse, “if only we were allowed..” then everything would be fine. Nonsense. Same with having a particular gun. That’s ridiculous.

    McCrystal was doing a hearts & minds strategy. Won’t work because of the fundamental hatred of a large portion of the population, combined with the way tribal/factional power works over there. But it’s better than the alternative of pretending that you can intimidate the populace into a liberal democracy if only you were allowed shoot enough of them.

  • McKellar

    I find it ironic that Conservatives in the US rail against big, corrupt, godless government, then we act like we don’t understand religious fundamentalist overseas who fight against the corrupt governments we foist upon them. You think we could have figured out by now that dumping money into Kabul is no more ‘nation building’ than the Saigon regime was a functioning, popular government.

    The political problem has to be solved first. Until that happens, no kind of military force, whether wrapped in a velvet glove or naked in its brutality, will have any lasting effect.

    • TMB

      And there’s the rub. The very nature of Afghan society goes against a single all powerful central government. A decentralized government would probably just digress into tribalism and warlordism. We’re in Afghanistan to prevent the Al Qaeda-loving Taliban from taking over and returning the status to pre-9/11 and setting us up for another one. Without a stable friendly government in Afghanistan, we’ll be fighting the Taliban along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier indefinitely – unless we’re willing to fully invade and commit ourselves to a wholesale bloodbath on both sides. If we invaded and crushed the Taliban support areas in Pakistan, the Pakistan government would either have to a) declare war on us for invading them, or b) do nothing and probably descend into anarchy and civil war for siding with us. If you think I’m exaggerating, look at the rioting and bombings whenever the Paki gov’t allows us a missile strike or swaps intel and prisoners. Pakistan in anarchy is infinitely worse than an unstable Afghanistan.

  • Tom

    It’s long past the time to pack up and leave Iraq and Afghanistan. We have lost thousands of young soldiers and wasted billions of dollars, and for what? The MOMENT we leave, these cesspools will revert back to what they were. You can NEVER “win the hearts and minds” of these people, you can NEVER “nation build” in these places. Why, you ask???? I’ll give you a one word answer….ISLAM.

    Our political “leaders” as well as it seems most of our military leaders are completely clueless as to the nature of Islam and they show no signs of being willing to learn. If they ever bothered to pick up a Koran and read it, we would be fighting a VERY different type of war. There is NO Political solution, if you think there is, well… “You don’t know Islam”.

    To win, you must know your enemy. “We” do not know our enemy.

    We are not just fighting with one hand tied behind our backs, we are fighting with both hands tied and hopping on one foot, it’s that bad.

  • Matt Musson

    Obama has trouble controlling his Generals.

    Clinton had trouble controlling his Privates!