Rules of Engagement for the 21st Century Battlefield

2006-09-27T082416Z_01_JER04D_RTRIDSP_0_MIDEASTTownhall, by Allen West, March 1, 2016:

Rules of Engagement (ROE) is defined as a directive issued by a military authority specifying the circumstances and limitations under which forces will engage in combat with the enemy. In the history of warfare we have seen an incredible metamorphosis of the rules of engagement. Long ago, armies presented themselves upon the battlefield in open areas away from civilian populations. The fact that weapons were limited to that which was carried, sword and spear, meant that fighting the enemy meant close-quarter engagement. The rules then were quite simple: engage the enemy, defeat them, and pursue to bring about their ultimate destruction. Given the fact that the level of communications capability was basically that of your voice, formations were tight and not spread out.

As battlefield technology and communications technology improved, the military battlefield expanded, and that meant a broader scope of what a “battlefield” encompassed. So as time moved forward, the battlefield was not just far away fields where armies came together; it meant involving civilian populations. As armies grew in size and scope, it became more necessary to depend upon local populations for food resourcing.

One thing that remained necessary and important was the states declared war against each other and fielded uniformed militaries that were identifiable on the battlefield. But consider what began here in America with the French and Indian War when there were two adversaries, but each employed non-state entities in support of their uniformed forces. The history of our vaunted US Army Rangers came from a company-sized force from the provincial colony of New Hampshire called into service of the British Army led by Colonel Robert Rogers, Roger’s Rangers. This guerrilla force operated in support of a uniformed state military, the British Army, against its enemies and won fame in the campaign against the Abenanki Indian tribe – who had been waging a frontier war against civilian populations supporting the British.

In our own Revolutionary War, militias such as that of Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” in South Carolina again featured a group supporting a uniformed Army in its prosecution of warfare.

In order to try and police the battlefield and reduce the impact of such non-uniformed belligerents, it was often a practice that those captured on the battlefield as such were summarily tried and executed. The purpose was to try and protect civilian populations.

But with the advent of “total war,” where civilian populations were in support of the war making machine, industry rules of engagement changed. Industry and means by which the materiel support to warfare were deemed part of “centers of gravity” were now targets. We remember the bombing of the Ploesti oilfields in Romania. Such as it was for factories that produced weapons components and the train systems that transported troops and materiel. And yes, there were spies and acts of espionage to gather intelligence and sabotage key infrastructure – and again, those captured not in uniform aiding and abetting efforts were summarily executed. It was brutal, but in essence it was the unfortunate consequence of civilians entering the expanded battlefield.

Fast forward to Vietnam, where a main belligerent on the battlefield was the Viet Cong, who infiltrated the civilian population and used adjoining nation-states as a base of operations to train, equip, provide provisions, and stage their attacks. They were a non-state actor in support of a state actor, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The ROE during that war was very convoluted, and in many ways enabled the enemy to find sanctuary due to the desire not to inflict civilian casualties.

And so we find ourselves much in a similar position today in the war against Islamic Jihadism. War on terror is a horrible misnomer. One cannot fight against a tactic, which is what terrorism is. It is a means, a method used by an undefined enemy. On the new battlefield of the 21st century, we must have ROE that is not developed at the highest levels but at the battlefield levels to enable success. When the enemy knows that we have a political concern with “collateral damage,” they will use that reticence to their utmost advantage.

As a Battalion Commander in Iraq, I can recall the insurgent enemy using mosques and burial grounds as assembly points, as well as ammunition and equipment staging points. They knew what our restricted target list was. We insidiously advertised it. The enemy knows that our troops are told to not fire until fired upon, and it has come to the point where Islamic jihadist enemies can simply drop their weapons and walk away, knowing they will not to be engaged by our forces.

We must also employ weapon systems on the battlefield with the proper ROE that enable us to gain and maintain contact with the enemy, and not allow them to reposition into civilian populations, which increases the chances for civilian casualties. Let me provide you with an example from my years in Afghanistan.

When an American element becomes involved in a TIC (troops in contact), it is imperative that they have the support of all resources that can destroy that enemy in place. The ground element must be able to keep the enemy engaged and maintain “eyes on target.” If the enemy is firing upon you from a location, that location is a target. What happens all too often is that far back at some headquarters, any request for additional fire support must go through ROE protocols, where a series of inane questions are asked of the ground element – something the enemy knows very well. Time is of the essence in a firefight.

We need weapon systems platforms that are in support of the ground element; that can deliver close support to them. We need mortars, artillery, and aerial close-air support assets that allow the ground element to keep an enemy pinned down for the ultimate kill, with additional assets. And let me be very clear: an F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 are not exactly fixed wing close air support assets. The best tools for that mission are attack helicopters or A-10 Warthogs. Why? Because the ground element can direct them right in on the enemy while still maintaining their direct fire, and reducing the issue of collateral damage.

What happens on the modern battlefield is that the enemy knows our TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures). When our ground element disengages, meaning they stop firing, they are repositioning to not be in the circular error probable of bombs that will be dropped. So the enemy repositions as well, and normally deeper into civilian areas, and we raise the probability of collateral damage.

If we are to be successful on this battlefield, let’s allow the leaders on the ground – not lawyers – to develop common sense ROE. We can ill afford to allow the enemy any advantage and initiative to kill our men and women we have deployed into harm’s way. This is a critical issue that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees should be examining. This is why we at the National Center for Policy Analysis are addressing this policy issue. To learn more, visit our “Provide for the Common Defense, Now!” petition.



By Jamie Glazov, Nov. 16, 2015:

This special edition of The Glazov Gang was joined by Stephen Coughlin, the co-founder of and the author of the new book, Catastrophic Failure.

He came on the show to discuss How “Rules of Engagement” Get U.S. Soldiers Killed, unveiling the disgraceful and deadly cost America pays for obeying Islamic laws in Afghanistan.

[See also Stephen on the two previous Glazov Gang specials: [1]Muslim Brotherhood: Above the Law in America and [2] How American Leadership is Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.]

Afghanistan: A Case Against a Residual US Military Presence

November 21, 2014 / ISIS Study Group:

The US government and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) finally inked a bilateral security agreement (BSA) on 30 SEP 14 that will leave a residual US military force of 9,800 – 10,000 personnel in the country. Since the signing of the BSA the US government has been fueling the mainstream media with talk about how it may boost the chances for resuming peace talks with the Taliban by “demonstrating to the insurgents that they cannot hope to achieve a military victory.” We strongly disagree with this dangerously naive view of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and submit to the American people that the presence of US military personnel in the country is irrelevant. Why? Because the central government will fall whether a residual force is there or not. The only thing a continue US military presence will do is delay the inevitable.

ANA troops

So keeping this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that we had the customary “friday afternoon information dump” with the Obama administration authorizing an expansion of the US military’s residual force in Afghanistan starting in 2015 – complete with the same restrictive rules of engagement (ROE) that have led to so many deaths over the past 6 yrs in the country.

Whereas the US government should’ve kept a residual force in Iraq, the opposite is true for Afghanistan. Here’s some of the primary reasons:

1. The Afghan people have no national identity. Where the average Iraqi (with the exception of the Kurds) identifies as being “Iraqi,” the Afghans’ loyalty falls in line with the following: Family, tribe, ethnic group, religion, nationality – all in this order. National identity is so far down on the totem pole that its barely a blip on their radar, and that’s one of the reasons why GIRoA can barely control Kabul. In other words, you’re more likely to find an Afghan who will identify as a being a member of the Zadran or Shirzai tribes than you will one who will identify himself as being “Afghan.” That’s a big problem to overcome in a country where unity is such a foreign concept. The UK and Soviets both tried – and failed in doing exactly what’s being attempted here. Should we really expect things to be different? Remember, even before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the central government was having difficulty maintaining its grip away from the capital.

2. Insider attacks. The concept of insider attacks have become a fixture in the enemy’s TTPs in the country – and enlisted men aren’t the only targets. Senior US military officers have also been targeted, with the most recent incident being the attack that led to the death of US Army MG Harold Greene. We assess that the restrictive ROE and ludicrous policy of “cultural sensitivity training” so as not to “offend” our Afghan National Army (ANA) counterparts will not prevent future insider attacks. Furthermore, the only reason there has been a drop in these attacks this year is because of the US drawdown. The ANA are now taking the brunt of insider attacks, and we have several contacts who have served in the country – some of which are still there– who have informed us that many of these incidents go unreported so as not to paint a “negative picture.” We had problems with the IA being compromised by the former regime and IRGC-Qods Force proxies, but never experienced attacks on this scale. It’s also worth noting that in the final days of the Soviet occupation, the Soviet Army was experiencing several insider attacks by Afghan military officers who defected to the Mujahidin. In fact, they saw an increase towards the end of their mission embedding advisors as whole units defected to the Mujaheddin.

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An Epic Expression of Failed COIN Strategy; Fallujah falls to Al Qaida Factions

20140107_FallujahIraqmap620x350by JOHN BERNARD:

For the better part of five years, I have been decrying the unconscionable use of the historically failed strategy of Counter Insurgency (COIN) in the midst of an ideological monolithic culture; principally of Islam.

In the past few days and just two years after the final elements of US forces withdrew from Iraq, stories are emerging, bringing to completion the seemingly prophetic message I and others warned of two years ago; that Al Anbar has fallen back into Al Qaida hands with a self-neutered Iraq government seemingly powerless to stop it. I also made the case, then, that Al Anbar was not won by General Petraeus’ conjuring up the spirit of COIN specifically, but by the infusion of some 30,000 American uniforms into the region.

This process is more akin to the scientific theory of displacement than battlefield strategy. If you fill a region with men bearing one set of Colors, the unit marching under a different Banner, will be forced to displace – and they did. The effort to liberate Fallujah, twice, yielded a temporary reprieve for the non-combatants living there which now seems to have been reversed with Al Qaida and other like-minded cells and tribal components, retaking that city and Ramadi.

What is so damnably frustrating about this is that too many of us to list, foretold of this, years ago. And if there were any left in this country who still held onto the belief that either our civilian leadership or the left-listing General Grade Officers which populate the upper echelon of our Military structure were somehow visionaries and intellectuals, this latest manifestation of a failure of foresight should hopefully drive a spike through the heart of that lingering belief.

Not once – but twice, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers were asked to lay down their lives, “liberating” Al Anbar and most specifically, Fallujah; the second time being tightly restrained by the rigid ROE (Rules of Engagement) borne of the incomprehensibly idiotic paradigm of COIN! And now, two years later, that effort and all that blood, proves to have been for naught!

My argument against applying the rigid stricture of COIN – on any battlefield was multi-faceted and immutable. First, if the hope of armed conflict is to convince your enemy of the futility of continuing on his chosen path then historically it has failed to some degree or another, each and every time it has been employed.

Second, the principle reason for dragging it out of the dusty archives of failed ideas has been the desire to mitigate collateral damage among the “innocent” population. The Pentagon assigned that misnomer to the Iraqi and Afghan populations due to a very poorly managed assessment of the human terrain in both countries which concluded the general population was innocent and not party to the calamity that was their culture. This assumption was made possible due to a systemic ignorance of the dominating religion and its likely effect on the daily actions of the people or their potential sympathies with the “insurgency”.

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Petraeus Betrayed His Country Before He Betrayed His Wife

Diana West

Was David Petraeus as great a general as the write-ups of his downfall routinely claim? This is a provocative question that I will begin to answer with another question: Did America prevail in the Iraq War? I suspect few would say “yes” and believe it, which is no reflection on the valor and sacrifice of the American and allied troops who fought there. On the contrary, it was the vaunted strategy of the two-step Petraeus “surge” that was the blueprint of failure.

While U.S. troops carried out Part One successfully by fighting to establish basic security, the “trust” and “political reconciliation” that such security was supposed to trigger within Iraqi society never materialized in Part Two. Meanwhile, the “Sunni awakening” lasted only as long as the U.S. payroll for Sunni fighters did.

Today, Iraq is more an ally of Iran than the United States (while dollars keep flowing to Baghdad). This failure is one of imagination as much as strategy. But having blocked rational analysis of Islam from entering into military plans for the Islamic world, the Bush administration effectively blinded itself and undermined its own war-making capacity. In this knowledge vacuum, David Petraeus’ see-no-Islam counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine would fill but not satisfy the void.

The basis of COIN is “population protection” — Iraqi populations, Afghan populations — over “force protection.” Or, as lead author David Petraeus wrote in the 2007 Counterinsurgency Field Manual: “Ultimate success in COIN is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force.” (“COIN force” families must have loved that.) Further, the Petraeus COIN manual tells us: “The more successful the counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used and the more risk can be accepted.” “Less force” and “more risk” translate into highly restrictive rules of engagement.

More risk accepted by whom? By U.S. forces. Thus we see how, at least in the eyes of senior commanders, we get the few, the proud, the sacrificial lambs. And sacrificed to what? A theory.

The Petraeus COIN manual continues: “Soldiers and Marines may also have to accept more risk to maintain involvement with the people.” As Petraeus wrote in a COIN “guidance” to troops in 2010 upon assuming command in Afghanistan: “The people are the center of gravity. Only by providing them security and earning their trust and confidence can the Afghan government and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) prevail.” That was a theory, too. Now, after two long COIN wars, we know it was wrong.

COIN doctrine approaches war from an ivory tower, a place where such theories thrive untested and without hurting anyone. On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, however, the results have been catastrophic. Tens of thousands of young Americans answered their country’s call and were told to accept more “risk” and less “protection.” Many lost lives, limbs and pieces of their brains as a result of serving under a military command structure and government in thrall to a leftist ideology that argues, in defiance of human history, that cultures, beliefs and peoples are all the same, or want to be.

Attributing such losses to Petraeus’ see-no-Islam COIN is no exaggeration. In his 2010 COIN guidance, Petraeus told troops: “Walk. Stop by, don’t drive by. Patrol on foot whenever possible and engage the population.” As the Los Angeles Times reported last year, “The counterinsurgency tactic that is sending U.S. soldiers out on foot patrols among the Afghan people, rather than riding in armored vehicles, has contributed to a dramatic increase in arm and leg amputations, genital injuries and the loss of multiple limbs following blast injuries.”

Indeed, the military has had to devise a new category of injury — “dismounted complex blast injury” — while military medicine has had to pioneer, for example, new modes of “aggressive pain management at the POI (point of injury)” and “phallic reconstruction surgery.”

But not even such COIN sacrifices have won the “trust” of the Islamic world. On the contrary, we have seen spiraling rates of murder by our Muslim “partners” — camouflaged by the phrase “green on blue” killings. COIN commanders, ever mindful of winning (appeasing) “hearts and minds,” blame not the Islamic imperatives of jihad but rather summer heat, Ramadan fasting and the “cultural insensitivity” of the murder victims themselves. Such is the shameful paralysis induced by COIN, whose manual teaches: “Arguably, the decisive battle is for the people’s minds. … While security is essential to setting the stage for overall progress, lasting victory comes from a vibrant economy, political participation and restored hope.”

Notice the assumption that something called “overall progress” will just naturally follow “security.” Another theory. It didn’t happen in Iraq. It hasn’t happened in Afghanistan. Since nothing succeeds like failure, the doctrine’s leading general was rewarded with the directorship of the CIA.

There is more at work here than a foundationally flawed strategy. In its drive to win Islamic hearts and minds, COIN doctrine has become an engine of Islamization inside the U.S. military. To win a Muslim population’s “trust,” U.S. troops are taught deference to Islam — to revere the Quran; not to spit toward Mecca (thousands of miles away); and to condone such un- or anti-Western practices as religious supremacism, misogyny, polygamy, pederasty and cruelty to dogs. Our military has even permitted Islamic law to trump the First Amendment to further COIN goals, as when ISAF commander Petraeus publicly condemned an American citizen for exercising his lawful right to freedom of speech to burn a Quran.

This explains why the reports that CIA director David Petraeus went before the House Intelligence Committee in September and blamed a YouTube Muhammad video for the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, sounded so familiar. Whatever his motivation, it was all too easy for Petraeus to make free speech the scapegoat for Islamic violence. But so it goes in COIN-world, where jihad and Shariah (Islamic law) are off the table and the First Amendment is always to blame.

If there is a lesson here, it is simple: A leader who will betray the First Amendment will betray anything.