Troops complain rules of engagement give Taliban advantage 

The AP has a dismaying report from Afghanistan:

Some American and Afghan troops say they're fighting the latest offensive in Afghanistan with a handicap — strict rules that routinely force them to hold their fire.

Although details of the new guidelines are classified to keep insurgents from reading them, U.S. troops say the Taliban are keenly aware of the restrictions.

"I understand the reason behind it, but it's so hard to fight a war like this," said Lance Cpl. Travis Anderson, 20, of Altoona, Iowa. "They're using our rules of engagement against us," he said, adding that his platoon had repeatedly seen men drop their guns into ditches and walk away to blend in with civilians.

If a man emerges from a Taliban hideout after shooting erupts, U.S. troops say they cannot fire at him if he is not seen carrying a weapon — or if they did not personally watch him drop one.

What this means, some contend, is that a militant can fire at them, then set aside his weapon and walk freely out of a compound, possibly toward a weapons cache in another location. It was unclear how often this has happened. In another example, Marines pinned down by a barrage of insurgent bullets say they can't count on quick air support because it takes time to positively identify shooter.

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