26 January 2007

It's the ROE, Stupid.

Much has been written and said about the “surge” of troops into Iraq. Arguments of all kinds can be made for more troops, fewer troops, etc. But the real thing that matters is what those troops are expected and allowed to do. It really is all about the ROE (Rules of Engagement).

In an article in the Washington Times, James A. Lyons Jr. lays out the current ROE for troops in Iraq:

(1) You must feel a direct threat to you or your team.

(2) You must clearly see a threat.

(3) That threat must be identified.

(4) The team leader must concur that there is an identified threat.

(5) The team leader must feel that the situation is one of life or death.

(6) There must be minimal or no collateral risk.

(7) Only then can the team leader clear the engagement.

And this is just for engagements on the ground. I can imagine what the maze might be for aircraft to provide support to ground troops. It probably involves, in the end, the “mother, may I?” approach to ROE; ask those on high if you can do something, wait, and if the opportunity is still there when the answer comes, perhaps the target will be serviced.

Not the way to fight a highly flexible, decentralized enemy.

Then again, it really isn’t a surprise that we can’t go after the enemy, people like Muqtada al-Sadr. When he should have been reduced to a smoking pile of unanimated carbon, it was hoped that he might be co-opted into the political machinery. (Hasn’t that already been tried with Hamas and Hezbolla?) al-Sadr is still around, still causing problems…

And additionally, there has been a “hands-off” approach to outsiders found in Iraq, or at least those coming from certain countries. It has come out recently that now our troops are able to detain Iranians found in Iraq, and presumably doing things they ought not be doing. It amazes me that, apparently, Iranians discovered causing trouble in Iraq enjoyed some sort of diplomatic immunity.

Is it any wonder that violence escalates, violence caused by “insurgent” forces and foreign operators, when US (and, presumably all Coalition) troops are forced to sit on their hands?

So, as Mr. Lyons states in his article, the ROE must change, and the sooner the better. It’s already three years late in coming, in my opinion. More troops is all fine and good, but they need to be able to engage (read: kill) those who need to be engaged without calling for permission from “mom.”

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