The war in Afghanistan just passed Vietnam as the longest war in American history. It’s not the only similarity commentators now see in comparing the two wars. After nearly nine years of fighting, the enemy is now clearly in the driver’s seat. The month of June has been the bloodiest yet for coalition forces in fighting the Taliban. Since the war began in 2001, over 1,100 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. Almost 500 of those casualties have happened in the past 10 months.
This is certainly not what then-Senator Obama envisioned during his campaign in 2008. “In 16 months we should be able to … bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda,” he said during a debate. Today, 17 months into his presidency, all prospects for success in Afghanistan seem to have vanished.
On Wednesday, President Obama fired the general he picked to run the war, Stanley McChrystal, after he made disparaging remarks about the president and his administration in a recent interview. According to the controversial article (a juvenile piece laced with profanity, by the way), General McChrystal and his aides criticized and mocked Obama for taking so long to develop a war strategy and for imposing an unreasonable deadline for beginning America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan—July 2011.
Besides revealing the sharp division between McChrystal and the man he voted for in the 2008 presidential election, the article sheds additional light on America’s absurdly prohibitive rules of engagement. In hopes of winning over the Afghan people, America’s strategy avoids civilian casualties at all costs—even if it means sacrificing the lives of U.S. soldiers.
According to the article, one soldier was recently killed by an ied planted next to a vacant house the Taliban had frequently used as a combat position. U.S. commanders on the ground had repeatedly asked for permission to destroy the house, but were turned down each time because of McChrystal’s desire to avoid upsetting civilians.
In another example, one soldier revealed a laminated card he had been given that listed a number of regulations for patrolling the region: “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” it read.
Unreasonably restrictive? How about this absurdity, recounted by a noncommissioned officer who was quoted in a recent column by George Will:
Receiving mortar fire during an overnight mission, his unit called for a 155mm howitzer illumination round to be fired to reveal the enemy’s location. The request was rejected “on the grounds that it may cause collateral damage.” The nco says that the only thing that comes down from an illumination round is a canister, and the likelihood of it hitting someone or something was akin to that of being struck by lightning.
Returning from a mission, his unit took casualties from an improvised explosive device that the unit knew had been placed no more than an hour earlier. “There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties” and “two suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home.” U.S. forces “are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan National Security Forces personnel present.” But when his unit asked Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds that the people in the house “are good people.”
One factor the New York Times attributes to the sharp increase in coalition casualties over the past 10 months is McChrystal’s “shift” in the rules of engagement guiding U.S. troops (emphasis mine throughout):
The shift de-emphasized airstrikes, artillery and mortars. This transferred some of the risk in skirmishes from Afghan civilians to Western combatants. In the past, American patrols in contact often quickly called for and received fire support. Not anymore. Many firefights these days are strictly rifle and machine gun fights.
After his speech on Wednesday, President Obama won praise from his critics for appointing Gen. David Petraeus as McChrystal’s replacement in Afghanistan. He also scored points for making a strong case for why America must continue on in Afghanistan. “Make no mistake: We have a clear goal,” the president said. “We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.”
Yet, over the past 17 months, that has not happened. One reason why is because President Obama has handcuffed the military with unreasonable restrictions that basically require soldiers to fight on the enemies’ terms.
President Obama said, “I have a responsibility to do … whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.”
Whatever is necessary, that is, except change the strategy that is killing American soldiers. In dismissing McChrystal, Obama stressed that the decision was made because of McChrystal’s conduct, as represented in the controversial article—not because of any division over policy.
“[W]e are in full agreement about our strategy,” Obama said. Then later: “Let me say to the American people, this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy. General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall, and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place.”
In his booklet No Freedom Without Law, our editor in chief talks about how weak America has become due to its division and lawlessness. As a result, our people no longer have the will to make the sacrifices necessary to fight and win wars. “We are not prepared to die to defend our security, as we were in the past,” Gerald Flurry writes. “This is the supreme sign that our will has been broken—and that our republic cannot stand.”
That broken will was prophesied in Leviticus 26:19, where God said He would “break the pride of your power.” The “unwinnable” war in Afghanistan—being fought with a politically correct “just war” strategy—is a result of that curse. •