first published on February 19, 2018 by Josh
In Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, coalition forces were given a near insurmountable task. This task was to fight an enemy who looked like, dressed like, and acted like the local civilian population. At the same time, coalition forces made it a clear and very obvious objective to mitigate civilian casualties at all costs. There is no way to have a decisive victory against an insurgency unless you can win over the local population in your favor. Every minor mistake made by the coalition would make the objective of winning the people over a little bit more impossible. Also, those minor mistakes ruined support for the conflicts back in the parent countries of the troops on the ground, which also made victory a little bit farther out of reach.
In order to mitigate civilian casualties, rules of engagement and escalation of force are brought into the picture. The intent of these two standard operating procedures is to ensure that coalition forces do not inadvertently cause civilian casualties whenever possible. One of the primary functions of the ROE is to force troops on the ground to obtain and maintain PID, positive identification, on any and all legitimate military threats before they can engage, and for the duration of the engagement. In this particular video of an AH-64 dominating a Taliban IED team, we get to see what it means to actually obtain PID on a very obvious group of enemy combatants. Listen closely to the communications between the pilot, and her TOC.
As you listen, it will become painfully obvious what the problems with these rules of engagement are. While they are an outstanding way to mitigate unnecessary civilian casualties, they also come with several very large drawbacks. It makes it very difficult for troops in the field to make the decisions required to preserve their own life, and the lives of the troops around them. Part of this is because it puts a constant question in the back of their heads before they pull the trigger. The other part is that it gives the enemy time to react to situations before they can happen, as troops are required to wait for clearance from higher headquarters before they are allowed to engage the enemy.
This pilot knows the situation on the ground. You can hear the annoyance in her voice as she is forced to standby and watch her targets disperse while waiting for clearance to release ordinance. We’re positive that she enjoyed using her auto-cannon to clean up the squirters, but the latency issue between commanders on a radio sitting in an air-conditioned room and troops in the field conducting operations is extremely high. Videos like this make it very obvious where the rules of engagement left a lot to be desired.