The Rules of Engagement. – Time


The Rules of Engagement

Senjaray is a warren of mud walls and unpaved streets, dust and more dust, shaped like a hornet's nest hanging from the branch of a tree. The branch is the Afghan Ring Road, a two-lane paved highway. The U.S. fort is located just north of the highway; the Taliban control the land to the south, a lush farming area, irrigated by water from the Arghandab River. The dividing line is a canal that runs along the southern border of the town; the Pir Mohammed School sits on the banks of both that canal and one other, which runs along the eastern edge of the hornet's nest. "It's a crucial strategic position," Ellis says. "My plan was to build a strongpoint next to the school that would later be converted into an Afghan police station. It was necessary to protect the teachers and students, but it was also necessary to protect the town. That intersection was the Taliban's way in, and as soon as the enemy found out that we wanted to reopen the school, they began to concentrate their forces on the area as well." Indeed, sources up the chain of command told me that the Taliban were moving forces into the Arghandab Valley, in anticipation of the summer fighting season.

And yet, the war in Senjaray had an odd, lugubrious battle rhythm. There were few direct confrontations between the Americans and the Taliban; the usual sounds of war, the crackle of small-arms fire and thump of mortars were rarely heard. Just an occasional boom — as an IED went off. Sometimes the Taliban blew themselves up, attempting to set the bombs; occasionally, Americans were the victims. On Feb. 21, one American was killed and another severely wounded in an IED explosion just south of town. "I decided to stop the patrols down there after that," Ellis says. "Given the rules of engagement, it was just too dangerous to keep going there and getting blown up."


See the Time piece for the rest of this…   pl

This entry was posted in Afghanistan. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Rules of Engagement. – Time

  1. ROE’s are important but still necessary that they reflect administrative feasibility and reality. The role of the lawyer at the battalion level and below (which is relatively new to the ARMY) has not yet accomodated that fact. Still interesting that we seem one of the few militarys to even try.
    Does not end the pain of losing someone in your unit to ROE’s that don’t make any sense. Perhaps if we had flag ranks that truly were not on the make for their next job or high level contractor or other civilian positions we would see some differences in the failures of the leadership in the military. Remind me have any flag ranks been cashiered in lsat three decades for taking a stand on an important issue that did not involve their own malfeasance, misfeasance or non-feasance? What kind of “wars” were the current flag ranks trained for? In your opinion PL is this current situation entirely new?

  2. R Whitman says:

    What is this leading to? Where will we be in a year, five years? Still fighting this same battle with more “chicken shit” rules. This does not seem like a group of winning warfighters to me.

  3. Patrick Lang says:

    There was always some of this but it has gotten worse. The army has the biggest problem. The marines are, I think, in better shape. The idea has been allowed to take hold in the army that general officers are a race apart, not subject to the norms of ordinary life and that nothing should limit their ambition, not even common sense. An indication of this phenomenon is the lack of general officer casualties in these wars. pl

  4. Patrick Lang says:

    R. Whitman
    IMO “chicken shit rules” is a fair description. These rules serve to indulge the theorizing of the COINistas and their general officer acolytes. They also serve to protect the GOs from problems the troops might cause them.
    Where are we going, toward a dual system of command in which there is a commander and then there is a JAG officer who exercizes a veto over command decisions?
    That sounds familiar… pl

  5. R Whitman says:

    Your answer regarding dual command really scares me. It would only be a short step to the old “political commissars” of the Soviet military.
    This is a guess on my part since I never had any contact with the USSR military except in news reports and fiction. I did have contact with Soviet oilfield engineers and their associates in the 70’s but they were like and other foreign customers.

  6. Fred says:

    “If a guy shoots at you, then puts down his weapon and runs away, you can’t fire back at him because you might harm a civilian.” Good thing Goldman Sachs billionaires just have to worry about hemorrhoids from sitting on their asses in front of a Congressional committee after they have ripped off the entire country.
    Captain Ellis has the type of ingenuity, initiative and integrity we look for in leaders. Too bad we don’t see the same from the flag ranks, or the politicians.

  7. Byron Raum says:

    I can’t help but wonder how many of these unknown IED explosions he mentions isn’t a Taliban, but some kids playing in the street or some passerby. Somewhere along the line, the total lack of respect these people have for any human life is going to start becoming obvious to their population. I wonder how long it’s going to take.

  8. FB Ali says:

    From Joe Klein’s report in the latest issue of TIME, it appears that Gen McChrystal’s first attempt at a COIN operation in Marjah having achieved quite modest success, he has reverted to his Iraq tactics of SF assassinations (in Kandahar). He seems to think it’s working (Klein calls the mood in his HQ “near delusional”).
    The delusion is that these tactics succeeded in Iraq, and will succeed in Afghanistan (especially as many of the people they kill are poor Joe’s mistakenly identified as Taliban).

  9. graywolf says:

    Is this another face of the “warrior” Army vs. the “paperpusher” Army?
    Now, the paperpushers – after you’ve filled out all their stupid forms – still aren’t satisfied and bring lawyers down on the fighters.
    How many Army GO’s got there as fighters?
    How many got there pushing PC paper?
    I believe the current Chief of Staff got there by the PC paper pushing route.
    His comments after the Ft. Hood massacre certainly showed him to be a PC weasel.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    That is the coat of arms of the 12th Infantry Regiment. It offends me to see these ancient regiments and their people sacrificed and indeed crucified in this way. pl

  11. Robman says:

    I trawled this up the other day (URL below), can someone please tell me that this is a hoax. If not, it may have some relevance to the discussion re contractors, in this case PA Consulting Group. Alas this company does exist, check out their web site. Would you trust them to handle your COTS and UORS with TCLM?
    Basically, the diagram may make some sense from a theoretical viewpoint, but with so many inputs, outputs, delays and feedback loops, a practical implementation would be meaningless.
    If it is real, then my opinion of Gen. S McChrystal has just gone up, at least in the quip stakes. He could get Nick Chaffey Defense, security and resilience consultant for PACG, out there for a look-see, maybe tune it up a bit.

  12. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang:
    “The idea has been allowed to take hold in the army that general officers are a race apart, not subject to the norms of ordinary life and that nothing should limit their ambition, not even common sense. ”
    It seems quite clear from this and other articles, that the ROE are about covering General officers backsides, and nothing else.
    What is killing the Army is exactly the same disease that is killing the American economy and has killed American politics, and it is spreading internationally.
    That disease is the promotion or election of officials, be they Generals, CEO’s or Congressmen who have a variant of narcissistic personality disorder.
    People so affected may be intelligent and hard working, but they cannot empathise with anyone. Normal human emotions, shame, love, fear, embarrasssment, etc. are a mystery to them.
    Such folk self select for high office because they will do anything to get ahead without the slightest qualm, and that includes lying, cheating, character assassination, backstabbing and outrageous flattery of their seniors. They mimic whatever behaviours they need to exhibit to get ahead, but they don’t “own’ those behaviours. At the core of them, there is a gaping hole where empathy for their fellow humans should be.
    Furthermore, since only a narcissist can or will work for a more senior narcissist, once the infestation starts it multiplies and filters up and down through the organisation.
    Based on what I’ve read about the levels of frustration, lack of morale and junior officer turnover, I believe, it may be safe to say that Petreaus and McChrystal are afflicted this way and most probably many officers below them and elsewhere in the Defence Forces as well.
    Since McChrystal no doubt thinks of his troops as no more than a pack of valuable hunting dogs, why would he possibly consider muzzling them with restrictive rules of engagement to be a problem? “I mean it’s not as if we actually have to succeed in doing good in this god forsaken country, it’s not as if the troops have to care about what is happening, I just need to construct the illusion of success in Afghanistan sufficient to get my next promotion. Why can’t the troops see things that way as well?”
    If you wish to read about an extreme example of this type of behaviour look no further than the case of Capt. Holly Graf, whose narcissistic abilities allowed her to rise to command of a Navy cruiser.
    To put it another way, the disease that permitted Goldman Sachs to sell bonds to investors while at the same time secretly betting that the value of said bonds would fall is one and the same as that affecting the Army. The absolute give away, which I have not yet heard of in the Army, is the mistreatment of subordinates.
    Of course the reason for the infestation of these folk in senior management is our well meaning efforts to end discrimination.
    Unfortunately discrimination on grounds of character is now forbidden, and solid evidence of good character provided by peers and subordinates is the only way to avoid promoting narcissists.
    To put it another way, there are people I was at school and university with who were rotten then and are rotten now, but today such evidence is inadmissible in promotion decisions.
    If you want a depiction of a Narcissist in high office, look no further than Australias current Prime Minister:
    “The third example highlights Rudd’s nascent contempt for most of the people who work for him and occurred days after his stunning election win. Staff who had gathered for a briefing on their responsibilities were told their Great Leader would address them. They were all on a high after the victory, but their excitement soon turned to dismay.
    They didn’t get a version of the true believers speech; instead, Rudd had one clear message: if any of their bosses stuffed up, it would be on their heads. They were the ones who would pay the price.
    He told them they would be given their lines every day and their job was to ensure they and their bosses stuck to the script. They were not to put a foot out of line. Or else. No mistakes or deviations would be tolerated. Thank you and good night.
    Oh and the f-word, which Rudd loves dropping almost as much as the c-word, featured prominently in his little lecture.
    Old hands who had worked for previous Labor administrations didn’t hang around for very long after that. One referred to him not by name but as “the megalomaniac from Queensland”.”
    There is no cure for this disease until moral character is once again assessed before promotion decisions are made.

  13. The Twisted Genius says:

    Robman, I just realized what this chart reminded of. In the late 90’s I sat in on a series of workshops run by David Kaye, then of SAIC, that attempted to tackle the Iraq problem. The workshops were sponsored by CENTCOM and involved a gaggle of reps from throughout the intel community, DoD and a huge contingent from CENTCOM. We attempted to identify all the moving parts that could bare on the problem and how all the parts related to each other. Each part and each arrow were assigned a numerical degree of importance and influence. All this was put into a computer model. Then (so the theory went) we could run all the “what if” scenarios we wanted and the model would show how it would affect all the interrelated parts. This PowerPoint slide looks like the same process applied to Afghanistan.
    A lot depended on who attended the workshops and how loudly and forcefully they shouted. My expertise was in East Europe, but I was at most of these workshops simply because I happened to be assigned to support CENTCOM at the time. My knowledge of Iraq was superficial. I had no idea of how much real area expertise was ever present at the workshops. The computer program was a blackbox to me, so I have no idea of its validity.
    It was an analytical and operational planning tool. Looking at the whole mess on a static slide is pretty useless… other than to show that it’s a complicated mess.

  14. Adam L Silverman says:

    Robman and Twisted Genius: the slide is legitimate. It was obtained by NBC back in December, if I recall correctly, and all subsequent available copies ultimately track back to it being posted on Engels’ blog, as well as Rachel Maddow’s show site. I found it the night they did the report on Engels’ blog, there is, supposedly an accompanying report or complete slide deck, which does not appear to have been released. I sent it directly to COL Lang, and he did a post on it shortly afterward.
    Slides like this are a honking mess and don’t do much for anyone. I wouldn’t be caught dead creating or trying to brief a slide or deck with this stuff in it. If I can’t get it down to four bullet points, then its not digestible for the decision makers. I’m convinced people do this because they themselves are unsure of what is supporting their argument and if they create technicolor vomit on a slide like this, they’ll look confident since everyone will be so confused they don’t have to worry about not being able to ask questions. I’ve actually performed subject matter expert duties on socio-cultural issues and Afghanistan for the Army and I don’t understand that slide!

  15. Robman says:

    Thanks for the background for this TTG. ALS, you took the words right out of my mouth; sorry if my post had a sarcastic edge.
    Incidentaly, this interest stems from my background in modelling electronic circuits and complex audio systems,here, even a few feedback loops can stump analysis. FYI the COIN diagram has over 100 nodes and 260 feedback loops.

Comments are closed.