Changing the rules of engagement

James A. Lyons, Jr.:

In order to ensure that the additional combat troops being deployed to Iraq can achieve their objectives, we must change the current restrictive rules of engagement (ROEs) under which they are forced to operate. The current ROEs for Baghdad -- including Sadr City, home of the Mahdi Army -- have seven incremental steps that must be satisfied before our troops can take the gloves off and engage the enemy with appropriate violence of action.
(1) You must feel a direct threat to you or your team.
(2) You must clearly see a threat.
(3) That threat must be identified.
(4) The team leader must concur that there is an identified threat.
(5) The team leader must feel that the situation is one of life or death.
(6) There must be minimal or no collateral risk.
(7) Only then can the team leader clear the engagement.
These ROEs might sound fine to academics gathering at some esoteric seminar on how to avoid civilian casualties in a war zone. But they do absolutely nothing to protect our combat troops who have to respond in an instant to a life or death situation.
If our soldiers or Marines see someone about to level an AK-47 in their direction or start to are receive hostile fire from a rooftop or mosque, there is no time to go through a seven-point checklist before reacting. Indeed, the very fact that they see a weapon, or begin to receive hostile fire should be sufficient justification to respond with deadly force.
We do not need to identify the threat as Sunni, Shia, al Qaeda or Mahdi Army. The "who" is immaterial. The danger is not. The threat of imminent attack must be immediately suppressed. And while we must always respect the lives of the innocent, the requirement of minimal or no collateral damage cannot preempt an appropriate response.
...
These rules are not that unusual in a counter insurgency operation, but Iraq is not the typical counter insurgency. One of the reasons that our troops like to patrol with the Iraqi army troops is that they are not bound by these rules of engagement. If they perceive a threat they open fire. That is pretty much what our old rules of engagement were before the Iraqi election.

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated since the rules were changed. Apparently the rules are being modified during the new surge. The rules as set forth are intended to not alienate the population. In Iraq, it is the enemy that has alienated the population and the US forces are the most trusted in the country. The rules need to reflect this reality.

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