At least 858 U.S. soldiers have died in the Afghanistan war since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. That equals 60.13 percent of the 1,427 American soldier fatalities so far in the ongoing 10-year war in that country. For the 858 U.S. deaths since Obama’s inauguration, 791 have been combat-related. This means that for the 1,241 combat-related deaths that occurred since the Afghanistan war began in October 2001, about 64 percent happened in the two years since Obama took office.
Last year was the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with 497 combat and non-combat fatalities. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or homemade bombs, continue to be the number one killer of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, which border Pakistan and have been the central focus of U.S. military operations in recent years, continue to be the deadliest regions for American soldiers.
You think the increase in American fatalities might have anything to do with our increasingly wacko rules of engagement (ROEs)?
[ROEs concern] things like how far out cones must be placed to demarcate where firing can begin for vehicles that are suspected being threats, whether troops in contact can return fire, when they can return fire, under what conditions specific combined arms weapons systems can be employed (mortars, CAS, etc.), and so on and so forth. A JAG [Judge Advocate General, or military lawyer] typically accompanies at least Battalion level deployments and certainly regimental deployments in order to create and help enforce all of those localized rules. Welcome to the enlisted man’s life.
[A]s for how the overarching rules have come to bear on the enlisted man’s life in Afghanistan… [an] example comes from Washington Examiner.
To the U.S. Army soldiers and Marines serving here, some things seem so obviously true that they are beyond debate. Among those perceived truths: The restrictive rules of engagement that they have to fight under have made serving in combat far more dangerous for them, while allowing the Taliban to return to a position of strength.
“If they use rockets to hit the [forward operating base] we can’t shoot back because they were within 500 meters of the village. If they shoot at us and drop their weapon in the process we can’t shoot back,” said Spc. Charles Brooks, 26, a U.S. Army medic with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, in Zabul province.
Word had come down the morning Brooks spoke to this reporter that watch towers surrounding the base were going to be dismantled because Afghan village elders, some sympathetic to the Taliban, complained they were invading their village privacy. “We have to take down our towers because it offends them and now the Taliban can set up mortars and we can’t see them,” Brooks added, with disgust.
Here are some comments Allen West made on the subject in an interview with Frank Gaffney on Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio broadcast of September 11, 2009. West said:
“Recently… we lost four U.S. Marines who were working as advisers with the Afghan military — something I used to be doing — and one of the critical things is that, when you go in and get contact with the enemy, normally the reaction time for you to get any kind of [air] support [is] a minute to two minutes. But, see, now… the people that are engaged on the ground have to go through wicket after wicket after wicket, up the chain of command, to get approval for this support. So what just happened… they were pinned down by Taliban who were intermixed with civilians, and even the reporter said the women and children were carrying, resupplying, ammunition to the Taliban. Not-so-innocent civilians.
“So, when we say these things, the enemy is listening, too. They listen to CNN, NPR, what have you. So they know these rules of engagement. We have created a gap that they can exploit. So now they know that they can pin our troops down because there is an elongated response time…
“The Taliban knows that if they don’t have weapons [on them], they can drive up, they can get intelligence, take surveillance on our checkpoints, they can be outside our gates and count numbers of vehicles on convoys, and what have you, because they know that as long as they don’t “show hostile intent,” [they] can stand up there with binoculars and call in mortar fire on a base….
“You have to go through a lawyer — the lawyer’s on the battlefield — anytime there’s an engagement, the report has to go through some type of legal review… We have brought this sense of law enforcement onto a very fluid, modern battlefield, where you have a non-state, non-uniformed belligerent. All these restrictions — when you apply them, you lose lives.”
West had much more to say on the subject, and on his ideas for better ways to prosecute the war — indeed, ways that offer perhaps the only hope of winning the war — in a brilliant speech at the Center for Security Policy. It’s one of his most important speeches. I urge you to click on the link and take the time to listen to it.
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