Monday, June 22, 2009

Taliban Safe Houses

I fully understand that we have to adjust our already careful and restricted use of air power in Afghanistan in order to win the war, but this decision really hurts our ability to fight the battles:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his measure of effectiveness will be the "number of Afghans shielded from violence," and not the number of militants killed.

McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if the U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger and must return fire, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith.

"But if there is a compound they're taking fire from and they can remove themselves from the area safely, without any undue danger to the forces, then that's the option they should take," Smith said. "Because in these compounds we know there are often civilians kept captive by the Taliban."

This seems rather a bit much. Just as the Pakistanis are finally taking down the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan we are creating them inside Afghanistan?

We've just guaranteed that the Taliban will fight amongst the civilians even more than they do now. The enemy will make sure they have a house full of civilians to run to when they get in trouble.

I hope that in practice this isn't as restrictive as it seems on paper.

UPDATE: Strategypage has a good discussion of the issue. Again, to win the war it is certainly right--and justified just by lower US casualties in the long run--to make our troops risk their lives a bit more in the short run by restricting air power. Our troops our well trained enough to execute this policy even if it hurts morale a bit. I'm just worried it is a little too restrictive now. I'd bet we loosen up the restrictions in time.