In a sign of how convoluted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is, United States troops tried to use Afghan soldiers as bait to confirm nearby Taliban gunmen were hostile, Mike Phillips of The Wall Street Journal reported.
As U.S. Green Berets accompanying Afghan forces on a raid were pinned down by nearby Taliban, a U.S. Green Beret captain proposed sending out the Afghan forces to draw enemy fire. The moment the Taliban fired, the gunmen’s hostility could be confirmed. Nearby US aircraft can only fire if the gunmen were officially hostile towards U.S. forces.
The captain clarified to Phillips that operating under the Obama administrations rules of engagement was a balancing act
“You never want to put the commandos at risk to loss of life, limb or eyesight,” he told the WSJ. Ultimately the Afghan troops refused to carry out the tactic saying the mission was to clear a road not “to hunt down the Taliban.”
The frustration of the U.S. troops underscores a larger problem with the U.S. role in Afghanistan and across the Middle East. The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is to aid the Afghan Defense Forces maintain control over the country. Politically the U.S. goal is to ensure a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan under a U.S. backed government.
The main impediment to the U.S. military and political mission in Afghanistan are the Taliban. However a senior U.S. Green Beret told Phillips, “We’re not at war with the Taliban.” Under the Obama administrations new rules of engagement the U.S. is not allowed shoot at the Taliban unless Afghan forces are about to win a “strategic gain” or U.S. forces are directly under fire.
Under the old rules of engagement, the Taliban gained more ground in Afghanistan than at any time since 2001. The old rules restricted U.S. forces from firing unless Afghan forces were about to suffer a “catastrophic failure” such as the loss of a major city. Even these rules of engagement could not stop the Taliban from seizing the major of city of Kunduz in September 2015.
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