Where’s an F-15 when you need it? That’s what U.S. troops in a small Afghanistan village were recently left to wonder as they faced enemy fire from three directions during what was supposed to be a simple reconnaissance mission.
The incident, recounted in the January issue of Wired magazine highlighted just how difficult and dangerous the war in Afghanistan is for our servicemen and women.
The safety of our troops is no longer the number one priority. The chief concern these days is avoiding civilian casualties and maintaining good public relations with the Afghan people. To that end, air strikes have been forbidden in all but the most extreme circumstances.
What qualifies as extreme? Well, apparently being pinned down by sniper fire is not enough. The troops mentioned in the Wired article requested air support but were initially denied because of their proximity to a farmhouse. The new rules of engagement in Afghanistan place retreat as more desirable than an airstrike which could result in civilian casualties.
The next day, still under fire by insurgents, the troops again requested help. The decision, made in a war room hundreds of miles away from any actual fighting, came almost two hours later – one bomb on the building where the gunmen were believed to be hiding.
The bomb hit its target, but within minutes the troops were under fire again. Another bombing run was out of the question.
And so it goes for our troops.
While civilian casualties have decreased dramatically since the new rules went into effect, American fatalities nearly doubled last year. Since 2001, nearly 1,000 American troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Last year, over 300 troops were killed with 230 of those fatalities taking place after the “revised tactical directive” was issued in July 2009.
The United States originally sent troops into Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and rid the country of Al Qaeda and their Taliban supporters. Our troops ousted the Taliban from power and drove most of Al Qaeda into the mountains of Pakistan. However, almost nine years later, we still have over 40,000 troops patrolling a country the size of Texas and trying to keep the Taliban from regaining control and popularity. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, said we could lose this battle without more troops and prolonged fighting - fighting in which the safety of our troops is secondary to the safety of the people who are responsible for allowing the Taliban to rise to power in the first place.
How many more Americans must die to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghanistan people? We are supposed to be fighting a war against terror, not waging a PR campaign. No one wants to see Afghan civilians hurt, but we should be far more concerned about the lives of our American servicemen and women.
Kristi Reed is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Me nombre es anónimo
03/09/10 at 09:43 AM
You're making the same mistake so many people have made in the past regarding conflicts in foreign countries. You don't think through to the long-term consequences of things. Think about it this way: How many people won't become widows and orphans and become insurgents who will kill more of our troops because of the new rules of engagement? How many have put down their guns or come over to our side because we stopped killing their friends and family?
You're only looking at the here and now with this group of soldiers, not the one who will come behind them to face a larger force of people who have lost their families and are now taking up arms against us.
This is the same kind of thinking that kept us from providing long-term support to Afghanis after we routed Russia, leaving the gap that the Taliban gleefully filled with misery.
Politics and war are just not good companions for the troops. And, this is especially true when we are fighting an undeclared war on a country that has never invaded us. Sorry, authorization is not constitutional, but this war is very, very expensive in the cost of human lives and our natural resources. There will be NO winners in this "war on terra."