Combat Vets: Afghan Agreement Sets Up Dangerous Rules of Engagement

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Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 08:12 AM

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New rules of military engagement in Afghanistan will add dangerous limits on how American troops can fight the Taliban and make Afghan homes safe hideaways for the enemy, combat veterans say.

As part of the proposed Bilateral Security Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai said U.S. forces will not enter Afghan homes "except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk of life and limb," reports The Washington Times.

Karzai and Secretary of State John Kerry announced the proposed security agreement Nov. 21. Karzai wants to delay signing the document, putting the burden on his successor following April's presidential election, but Afghan's tribal elders approved the pact and want it signed by 2014, reports UPI.

Current rules of engagement require U.S. troops to confirm that a Taliban fighter is armed before they can fire, which has resulted in some aerial gunships being denied permission to fire even after reporting armed targets on the move.

Ryan Zinke, a veteran who had commanded an assault team within SEAL Team 6, told The Washington Times that the security deal will be "effectively used against us."

"The first people who are going to look at it and review it are the enemy we're trying to fight," said Zinke, now a Montana state senator and a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's lone U.S. House seat.

Zinke said the new rules mean the United States is "losing our ability to fight overseas," and "this is where we either fight or go home."

Troops have been complaining for some time about rules of engagement that got even stricter in 2010, after a series of bombings killed civilians, and special-operations troops staged nighttime raids of homes and villages.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ken Allard, now a military analyst, complained to The Washington Times that the new rules "make sense only in proportion to your distance from the combat zone."

The security agreement also defines the legal status of troops who will remain in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, when international troops are set to leave. Up to 18,000 international troops, 8,000 of them Americans, will remain for 10 years to train Afghan forces and hunt terrorists.

Zinke said soldiers coming home have told him they were frustrated because of the "too restrictive rules."

“I’ve always been a champion of, if we are going to fight, fight to win,” said Zinke. “And you’ve got to give our troops that are in harm’s way every tool and every advantage that is possible.

“And when you start restricting [rules of engagement] — when you limit our ability to fight at night, where you restrict the ground commanders’ ability to react quickly without having to go up the chain of command and also when you’re forced to bring along the Afghan forces who are notorious for the lack of security — then I think it puts troops in greater risk.”

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