Gen. David Petraeus, tapped to replace McChrystal after President Obama fired him last week, vowed Tuesday to take a hard look at the rules which came in "tactical directives" from McChrystal to unit commanders.
In a message to troops and their families who believe the ROE have led to unneeded battlefield defeats and deaths, Petraeus pledged before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will "look very hard" at the restrictions. He offered no specific changes.
"I want to assure the mothers and fathers of those fighting in Afghanistan that I see it as a moral imperative to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom .... troopers are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder," he testified at his confirmation hearing. "Those on the ground must have all the support they need when they are in a tough situation."
He said that after Obama nominated him last week one of the first issues he discussed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was the ROE.
Ever since Petraeus has taken McChrystal's spot there's been a lot of buzz over whether or not he will change the rules of engagement, which as of now seem to do more to help the Taliban than coalition forces. I understand the idea is that you don't want people becoming upset with American forces and joining up with the enemy, but they have their own PR problems to deal with, and at the end of the day we still have to be able to engage and destroy the enemy. It doesn't matter how many or how few people join the enemy if you're unable to kill them effectively.
I'd go more into why the RoE's are so bad, but the article touches on that point so well, that I don't have to:
An Army special operations soldier who has served in Afghanistan had this bitter assessment:
"If soldiers in contact need an air strike or a fire mission, give it to them. Don’t deny them illumination or smoke because a canister might land on a civilian.
"If a Taliban runs into a deserted house after clacking off an IED killing Americans, don’t disallow the attack on the house because it is a civilian dwelling. If the same guy who just shot at you, hides his weapon, walks out and gives you the finger, don’t let him go because he’s an unarmed civilian. The enemy knows our ROE and is using it against us. If we are going to turn war into a joke—get out."
There really isn't a better summary of what's going on, and he's right in that we're not really fighting a war currently. If we're going to be in Afghanistan spending time, money, and lives, we have to be in it to win it, no matter how long it takes.
The RoE in the Afghan war has my biggest complaint (followed by the lack of support from our NATO allies) about the war, so seeing a change there would be pretty exciting. Perhaps if we gain some ground and make some progress the defeatist talk of withdrawal will go away and be replaced with something a bit more pragmatic. I doubt it though. Obama will probably need a "victory" before November 2011, and a withdrawal would give him that.