Home » Wars » Afghan Update » Petraeus to Loosen Controversial Afghan ROE?

Petraeus to Loosen Controversial Afghan ROE?

by Greg on June 25, 2010

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

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Clement June 25, 2010 at 8:44 pm

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.

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Drake1 June 25, 2010 at 10:35 pm

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

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Lane June 26, 2010 at 12:28 am

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…

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Nolan Nelson June 26, 2010 at 7:36 am

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.

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Nolan Nelson June 26, 2010 at 7:37 am

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?

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Oblat June 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Will each serviceman be tucked into bed with warm milk and cookies each night ?

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kim June 27, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I seriously doubt The Senate Arms Comittee will waste General Petraeus' time asking juvenile questions like that.

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Philo June 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm

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…

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Clement June 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

really? as a liberal, i can definitively tell you that i personally think the MoveOn.org ad, if that's what you're referring to, was one of the dumbest stunts pulled by progressives, and by no means does the left consider him the "anti-Christ" (that would be more like Cheney), a failure (look at all of his accomplishments, awards, and decorations), or useless. In fact, when he became commander of MNF-I, many on the left praised the move knowing that someone would finally bring an intellectual approach to fighting the war. We were just pissed that Bush couldn't justly defend his own policies and had to hide behind the general and use him as a political kewpie doll.

You can ask the majority of liberals who actually think, and most of them will say that MoveOn attacking the man in uniform, rather than the policies of the bush administration, was the wrong move. I personally have had great respect for Petraeus since Rick Atkinson chronicled his experiences with the General in his book "In the Company of Soldiers" about the 2003 invasion, and he has proven himself to be incisive, smart and capable at every turn. If he ever ran for President I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.

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Jacob June 28, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Don't bother. Conservatives have already made up their minds that liberals are sub-human.

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pedestrian June 26, 2010 at 5:45 pm

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.

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StevenDDeacon June 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm

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.

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Oblat June 26, 2010 at 8:49 pm

>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 ?

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William C. June 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

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.

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StevenDDeacon June 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Our assault weapons and battle rifles need M203's in the Afghani rough and mountainous terrain for indirect fire. The Taliban are the masters of concealment in their own terrain. Once we stir the wasps nests by hitting them with mortar fire and they break cover we hit them with a little indirect fire with our M203's and M32's by dropping in on their positions. Then hit them with our machine guns, battle and sniper rifles, AT4's, and armored vehicle weapons as they try to scatter. Our M16's would be used for close in fighting at 100 to 300 yards. The M203 is worth the little extra weight just like water is!

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StevenDDeacon June 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

By the way Semper Fidelis!

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TMB June 28, 2010 at 6:34 am

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?

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StevenDDeacon June 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

When did kill, win, or even exterminate mean the same thing as the "systematic destruction of these fanatical terrorist organizations"? We need to disrupt and destroy all of the Taliban's and al-Qa'ida, which will require killing, but mostly the destruction and capture of their command structure and their associated operating cells. At no point did I say anything about extermination. We need to deploy our troops to the areas our enemies occupy and destroy their infrastructure. The weapons I suggested were as light as possible for humping over hard rough open and mountainous terrain with overwhelming firepower. We need to be light and mobile, like Rogers' Rangers of the 18th century, in order to move and strike quickly … not to just kill but to capture prisoners to gather human intelligence.

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blight June 26, 2010 at 11:17 pm

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.

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M.G.Halvorsen June 27, 2010 at 12:35 am

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."

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blight June 27, 2010 at 3:21 am

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.

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blight June 27, 2010 at 3:21 am

And as a follow up, the Church did something like this during the Crusades. Go kill Jews and the Mohamadean, and god will absolve your sins.

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pedestrian June 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I believe you should keep such Crusaderism quotes for some other forum before some one shouts anti-semitism against you, even it had different context than what you meant.

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Oblat June 27, 2010 at 9:24 am

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

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pedestrian June 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm

and their Vietnamisation dream has been crushed in Iraq by Gen. Petraeus. Afghan is next.

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Nidi June 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm

"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.

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Rick W June 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm

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.

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StevenDDeacon June 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

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!

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Oblat June 28, 2010 at 9:44 am

The Afghans may be nothing like the Vietnamese and the deserts of Afghanistan nothing like the Jungles of Vietnam, but it's still the same old US army, making the same old mistakes,

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StevenDDeacon June 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm

The Taliban and al-Qa'ida are more fanatical than the VC and NVA. They are willing to carry the fight to our own homeland. As for the US Army, its not just the US Army but the US Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard with NATO combined forces coordinating their efforts through CentCom to confront the enemy. Our NATO forces in Korea deported themselves admirally when North Korean troops were driven back toward the Chinese boarder and completely beaten and then NATO was confronted with the Chinese People's Volunteer Army invation to overwhelm NATO forces by an enormous number of troops. With the use of an arsenal of WWII weapons, armor, and air cover NATO was finally able to throw the Chinese invasion back to a stalemate. Our troops were armed with M1A Garands and carbines; Thompson machines guns; M3 and M3A1 grease guns; M1903 sniper rifles; Browning M1918 BAR's; M1919 Browning Machine Gun; M2 Browning Machine Gun; Browning M1911's; 81mm and 60mm mortars; 75mm Howitzer Artillery; and Chaffee, Pershing, and Patton tanks, P51 Mustang and F-86 Sabre fighters.

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AAK June 27, 2010 at 10:50 pm

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.

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Clement June 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Amen brother

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McKellar June 28, 2010 at 1:45 am

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.

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TMB June 28, 2010 at 6:22 am

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.

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Tom June 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm

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.

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Matt Musson June 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Obama has trouble controlling his Generals.

Clinton had trouble controlling his Privates!

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MCQknight June 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Wow, so now having legitimate disagreements with strategy is defeatism. This is especially ironic considering the current strategy, or at least the current ROE, is leading us down the road towards defeat.

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Oblat June 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

You don't have any legitimate disagreements with strategy. What we have here is an attempt to change the objective to defeat simply to protect US soldier's lives.

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