The United States Marines now fighting the battle of Marja, Afghanistan are facing a most difficult mission. They are tasked with clearing the town of Taliban fighters – and they are restricted by rules of engagement not seen heretofore in the history of U.S. warfare. Commanding General Stanley McChrystal has made limiting civilian casualties a higher priority than loss of American lives. And it is impossible to tell who is the enemy in a Muslim State that still resembles the Stone Age. The Los Angeles Times coverage by Tony Perry and Laura King is here:
“Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Marja, Afghanistan — Ambushes, sniper fire and a labyrinth of buried bombs again slowed a drive by U.S. Marines and Afghan troops Monday to rid a former Taliban stronghold of insurgents.
The arduous progress on the offensive’s third day…could take weeks…”
The Marines, especially during WWII, were used for direct frontal assaults and complete destruction of enemy positions. Clearing buildings is nerve-racking, exhausting, painstaking work. I did it as a cop. Every structure must be approached and searched as though the enemy is within.
“…Elsewhere in southern Afghanistan, NATO reported that its troops had killed civilians in a second errant attack in as many days. A patrol of coalition forces in Kandahar province, which borders Helmand, spotted what it mistakenly thought was a group of insurgents planting bombs and called in an airstrike Monday that killed five of them and injured two others, Western military officials said…”
And civilian deaths, a terrible part of all wars, will be reported and re-reported by the American Press Corps. McChrystal will quickly apologize and the unbelievable pressure not to kill the wrong person will increase. The Marines all know that there are soldiers now sitting in U.S. prisons who did kill the wrong people during combat operations.
“… Marines on the ground said the hidden explosive devices were both more numerous and more sophisticated than expected…”
Well, I wonder where all of this sophisticated ordnance is coming from. If these IED munitions are manufactured outside Afghanistan, why have we not leveled the plants where they are made, a long time ago?
“…Some Taliban fighters are believed to have fled before the assault began, and even as the battle continued, cars carrying fighting-age men could be seen among vehicles leaving the town…”
All of which is going to make this a very long drawn-out conflict. We’ve been there since 2001. When an invasion is broadcast for weeks in advance like this one was, why would the enemy not run away and come back to fight another day?
“…Some Marja residents did what they could to help the U.S. and Afghan forces along; others were in league with the insurgents…”
And how in Hell is a good Marine to tell one from the other?
“…”We know what we have to do,” said Lance Cpl. Raymond Walker. “But who can tell the good ones from the bad ones? It’s tough.”
Yes, sir. And your Commanders have made it even tougher for you.