As a former combat commander, I can tell you that fear is difficult to avoid on the battlefield. But on today’s battlefields, a new fear haunts our troops: the fear of persecution by their own government. That fear leads to internal hesitation. And that leads to death.
“U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are now forced to fight a two-fronted war. Before each deployment, these soldiers understand fully that day after day they will do battle against relentless terrorists with shifting loyalties and unspeakable hatred. But what none of them could have foreseen was the killing field that would open from their rear: the Continental United States.
“Our government’s incessant tightening of already restrictive ROE (Rules of Engagement), compounded by the failed COIN (Counterinsurgency) strategy—also known as “winning hearts and minds”—has made an otherwise primitive enemy formidable.”
The chart below shows the awful truth about US military deaths in Afghanistan.
In the first seven-plus years of war in Afghanistan (October 2001 – December 2008) we lost 630 U.S. soldiers. In early 2009, the Obama administration authorized the implementation of the COIN (Counter-Insurgent) strategy, more focused on “winning hearts and minds” than winning a war, and over the next five years, the U.S. death toll nearly tripled.
Seventy-three percent of all U.S. deaths in Afghanistan have taken place since 2009. In the first seven plus years of war in Afghanistan, 2,638 U.S. soldiers were wounded in action. In the next forty-five months (2009 – 2012) an additional 15,036 suffered the same fate.
Recently, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai decided to release Islamic terrorists with blood on their hands, that of our American troops as well as Afghan civilians. Imagine being a young warrior in Afghanistan at this time and having to ask “why am I here?” Many Americans are now aware of the story behind Lone Survivor and realize that when faced with life or death decisions it seems our warriors fear lawyers and the media more than the enemy. They face a non-state, non-uniformed enemy that blends in with the civilian population and knows our ROE.
Our battle-tested men and women we send into harm’s way are confronted by the enemy and must make instantaneous combat decisions. Some, like Army 1LT Clint Lorance, find themselves afterwards sitting in a prison cell in Ft. Leavenworth.
Yet, while much evidence demonstrated links to Islamic totalitarianism and terrorism with former Army officer Nidal Hasan, and some were told to keep silent because of “political correctness.” That silence led to 13 dead and some 30 wounded in Ft. Hood Texas — shot by a man in American uniform shouting “Allahu Akhbar.” And what did our leaders say to our warriors gunned down by a jihadist on a military installation in America? It was “workplace violence.”
In the last presidential election, for the first time in nearly 77 years, the sitting president, vice president and candidates for office had no military service. I’m not suggesting that the president of the United States must have served in the military — but the most important duty of the president is Commander-in-Chief. Our country needs a leader who can understand the sacrifices and commitment of those brave men and women who stand on freedom’s rampart, because he or she has been there.
As the Vaughn’s write, “Our best and brightest come home in body bags as politicians and lawyers dine over white linen tablecloths; writing, modifying, and re-modifying these lethal rules. Rules that favor the enemy rather than the American soldier. Rules so absurd they’re difficult to believe until you hear the same stories over and again from those returning from battle.”
When the parents begin to feel this way, will America stop being the Land of the Free because parents will no longer sacrifice the brave?
We must make a stand for those who make the stand for us.
Lt. Lorance served two combat tours; 15 months in Iraq and 7 months in Afghanistan. But upon his return home, the ground combat platoon leader in the 82d Airborne Division was sentenced to 20 years in Ft. Leavenworth on two counts of murder because he ordered the engagement of two Taliban scouts who were tracking his platoon’s movements while on a patrol in Kandahar province, a platoon that had recently experienced losses, including the previous Platoon Leader.
In the words of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, from his epic narrative, Lone Survivor:
Our rules of engagement in Afghanistan specified that we could not shoot, kill, or injure unarmed civilians. But what about the unarmed civilian who was a skilled spy for the illegal forces we were tying to remove? What about an entire secret army, diverse, fragmented, and lethal, creeping through the mountains in Afghanistan pretending to be civilians?
But we were also told that we could not shoot that camel drover before he blew up all of us, because he might be an unarmed civilian just taking his dynamite for a walk.
The truth is, in this kind of terrorist/insurgent warfare, no one can tell who’s a civilian and who’s not. So what’s the point of framing rules that cannot be comprehensively carried out by anyone?
Rules that are unworkable, because half the time no one knows who the goddamned enemy is, and by the time you find out, it might be too late to save your own life. Making sense of the ROEs in real-time situations is impossible.
In Bush’s eight years we lost 630 soldiers; in obama’s five years & 2 months, we’ve lost 2311, for a total of 2,941 because we changed the rules.
In 84 plus months, under Bush, 2,638 were wounded, and in 45 months, under obama 15,036 were wounded, for a total of 17,674, because we changed the rules. Once back in the States, they have to do battle again – this time with the VA.
We have had troops in Afghanistan for 13 long years. What ARE we doing there??