Friday, March 29, 2013

U.S. Troops Continue Facing Threat of Prosecution from Rules of Engagement

The Associated Press published a story on March 11 describing an insider attack in Afghanistan which resulted in the deaths of two U.S. troops.

The same AP story included information about a separate incident where U.S. troops in a convoy used lethal force to defend themselves.

The AP contacted U.S. spokesman Jamie Graybeal about that incident. “‘The convoy took appropriate measures to protect themselves and engaged the vehicle killing two individuals and injuring one,’ Graybeal said in an email. He said an assessment is under way,” the AP repoted.

However, the next paragraph in the AP story said that, “Associated Press video shows a U.S. major cursing at one of his soldiers and slapping him over the head with his cap as Afghans pulled dead bodies from the truck. In the video, the major appears to be upbraiding the soldier for not using a laser warning device to signal the approaching truck.”

This shows that even as an initial account from an Army spokesman indicates that U.S. troops took appropriate measures to protect themselves, a senior Army officer apparently berated them for doing so.

This is an indication that the mindset of Army leaders still has not changed in regards to the rules of engagement even with the epidemic of insider attacks against U.S. troops.

This in turn shows how much pressure U.S. troops face not only from the enemy, but also from their leaders.

A separate story from The Oklahoman on March 18 reports on the Army considering murder charges against a First Lieutenant Clint Lorance.

Lorance, a platoon leader, authorized his men to shoot individuals deemed to present a threat to his men while he and his men conducted a foot patrol in Afghanistan.

The Oklahoman reports that, “Pending an investigation of the shootings, Lorance was stripped of his leadership, and his weapon was taken away in a combat zone.”

The Oklahoman also reported that, “He is now at Fort Bragg, N.C., waiting to see whether he will face a court-martial on murder charges.”

These two incidents show that the DOD still places incredibly restrictive rules of engagement on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

These rules of engagement, and the threat of legal prosecution, undoubtedly cause U.S. troops to second guess themselves and even withhold action that could save lives.

There has been plenty of coverage of these restrictive rules of engagement but it does not appear to have affected how U.S. forces operate in Afghanistan.

While it remains to be seen what actually occurred in the case of First Lieutenant Lorance and what will happen to him, he could join a long list of people that some say have been wrongly punished for actions in war due to the restrictive rules of engagement.

Troops who have been stiffly punished under questionable circumstances include, First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, Captain Roger Hill, and Private First Class Corey Claggett.

The ongoing restrictive rules of engagement undoubtedly affect the morale of troops and likely cause growing disillusionment with the mission in Afghanistan.

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