"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.
Returning from a mission, his unit took casualties from an improvised explosive device that the unit knew had been placed no more than an hour earlier. "There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties" and "two suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home." U.S. forces "are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan National Security Forces personnel present." But when his unit asked Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds that the people in the house "are good people."
On another mission, some Afghan adults ran off with their children immediately before the NCO's unit came under heavy small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and the unit asked for artillery fire on the enemy position. The response was a question: Where is the nearest civilian structure? "Judging distances," the NCO writes dryly, "can be difficult when bullets and RPGs are flying over your head." When the artillery support was denied because of fear of collateral damage, the unit asked for a "smoke mission" -- like an illumination round; only the canister falls to earth -- "to conceal our movement as we planned to flank and destroy the enemy." This request was granted -- but because of fear of collateral damage, the round was deliberately fired one kilometer off the requested site, making "the smoke mission useless and leaving us to fend for ourselves."" Will
I know that I am boring and repetitive on this subject. Nevertheless, I think the extreme nature of the restrictions on fire support for coalition troops is foolish and wrong. Will is smart to listen to sergeants. They are always the people to listen to if you want to know the truth.
I know that I will now be lectured on COIN theory, "hearts and minds," etc. I am not impressed by that. I did COIN in South America, Southwest Asia, and of course the "big one," in Southeast Asia. I was taught COIN theory in 1964 at Ft. Bragg by some of the French and British authors of the dogma. So, forget the lecture. I have dug enough wells for people who should have dug their own wells to understand the faults of the concept.
COIN is a fragile instrument. It is essentially a contest for control of the population. The tools can be either sticks or carrots or some combination of these. The "mix" of tools must contain both or the theory will not work.
Villagers "laughed at US casualties?" What? Afghans are not impressed by displays of weakness. How can we expect the Afghans to trust us with their safety if we are so weak as to not be willing to defend our own soldiers. Stanley seem to be intent on making infantrymen appear to be lightly armed social workers. That is a bad idea.
Troops in contact were denied illuminating fires and smoke for fear that the brass casing on the round might fall on someone? Well, I have had these casings land all around me. If one hits you in the head you are a "deader," but the thing has to actually fall on you. I am still here, for good or ill.
Then, there is the issue of chain of command responsibility to the troops they are given the privilege of commanding. That chain of command extends all the way to Obama and it includes him. He is responsible for the lives of those who are sworn to obey his orders however foolish they may be. That is a very special responsibility.
McChrystal seems to have an honest man's doubts about the course of action he is following in south Afghanistan. Petraeus has the look of someone who is not well. President Obama had better stop listening to the generals and the business developers and start listening to the people in the field, the real people. pl