Patterico's Pontifications


Afghan Human Shields

Filed under: Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 9:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Amid reports that American military forces in Afghanistan are hampered by the rules of engagement, the AP reports the Taliban is using Afghan women and children as human shields:

“This is the biggest offensive since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and a test of President Barack Obama’s strategy for reversing the rise of the Taliban while protecting civilians.

As Marines and Afghan soldiers press their offensive, they have been forced to hold their fire because insurgents are shooting from inside or next to mud-walled compounds where civilians are present — and restraint slows their advance.

Brig. Gen. Mohiudin Ghori, the brigade commander of Afghan troops in Marjah, said in some cases women and children may have been ordered to stand on a roof or in a window of buildings where Taliban fighters are shooting.

Ghori said troops have to decide between firing on insurgents among civilians, or advance much more slowly to keep women and children out of the crossfire.

“They are trying to get us to fire on them and kill the civilians,” Ghori said.

Journalists embedded with the Marines have seen such cases: a neighborhood is alive with children, then the next minute the streets are empty and gunshots ring out. As the troops advance, children reappear, peering and grinning through half-closed doors.

Rocket-propelled grenades have been fired from behind groups of civilians, who scamper away as the Marines point their weapons toward the source of fire. Marines have come under fire in poppy fields as they are being tended by farmers.

“I myself saw lots of people that were shot, and they were ordinary people,” said Afghan soldier Esmatullah, who did not give his rank and like many Afghans goes by one name. Taliban “were firing at us from people’s homes. So in returning fire, people got shot,” he said.

NATO has confirmed 15 civilian deaths in the operation. Afghan rights groups say at least 19 have died.”

It’s interesting that the AP has finally decided to point out how hard it is to fight unconventional wars by conventional rules. What happened to the AP’s insight when Americans were fighting in Iraq?


21 Responses to “Afghan Human Shields”

  1. What happened to the AP’s insight when Americans were fighting in Iraq?

    THAT was Bush’s evil war for oil. THIS is a just war, because it’s Obama’s.


    Virtual Insanity (d93c26)

  2. Absolutely right – they can’t blame it on Bush.

    Isn’t AP another organization that is “too big to fail”?

    AD - RtR/OS! (3742c3)

  3. Use of human shields is a war crime. The usual penalty is no quarter.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  4. As “Unlawful Combattants” they are already subject to Summary Execution;
    What’s one more Capital-Crime charge?

    AD - RtR/OS! (3742c3)

  5. I would call them cowardly for this regular usage of human shields but this time they are being logical. The Chosen Won has tied our hands, why not use that against us?

    John Hitchcock (181b3b)

  6. I suspect there will be more than a few situationally blind PLT SGTs before this is all over. “Nobody saw any civilians present when we killed the enemy.”

    John Hitchcock (181b3b)

  7. John, it will be closer to “He had his hands up and was screaming at me, so I shot him”

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  8. (#6 & 7) likely neither one will happen because A. our guys are professionals. B. it appears that the plan is to slowly wear down and out wait the OPFOR, to avoid civilian casualties. and C. anyone who did adopt such a move, especially in light of “B”, would undoubtedly be crucified at the court martial.

    pretty much the only people hoping for such an event are the OPFOR and the MFM. but i repeat myself… %-)

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  9. I have great respect for our military, especially those with boots on the ground. My daughter (E-5) was in Iraq and is due to return to Iraq later this year. They value their honor, duty, country very highly. They are wise beyond their years and hold a great deal of knowledge. They, as a whole, would not act in a dishonorable manner; and if they chose to make the best of a bad situation, they would know what to say afterward.

    Therefore, Kevin, they would not say what you suggested. But they might say “they were coming at our position and waving their arms and shouting what sounded like ‘Allahu Akbar,’ so I ordered the unit to fire defensively before they got too close.”

    John Hitchcock (181b3b)

  10. And, red, I was working out my response as you were posting. I was just a bit slow.

    John Hitchcock (181b3b)

  11. it was interesting to note that it was the Afghan military that was talking about shooting when the civilians were in sight.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  12. “The Chosen Won has tied our hands, why not use that against us?”

    Are the people here suggesting our soldiers should shoot women and children shields?

    JEA (3fc310)

  13. Unfortunately, I would steam roll everyone. Who knows if they are willing, or not, props in a show.

    If you steam rolled just one town, and sent the pictures to our Taliban frems, they would cease to exist. Same can be said to all our enemies.

    But so long as your engage the children in their stupidity, the body count increase in a drip-drop fashion over many years instead of just having a few cathartic events which cause these insular societies to question “What the hell are we doing?”

    HeavenSent (c3c032)

  14. #12, Yes, all of them. Indiscriminately, Leave only the rats. “War” will be wrapped up in days — message, we are crazy, we don’t care anymore, we can kill faster than you can procreate.

    People usually understand this — like the Japs and Germans.

    HeavenSent (c3c032)

  15. It is the most humane approach. Beats a grinding low level war were the bodies accumulate over the years in the form of bullets, hunger, famine and disease b/c society breaks down.

    HeavenSent (c3c032)

  16. Are the people here suggesting our soldiers should shoot women and children shields?

    No. Possibly poor use of pronouns.

    But … combatants who use human shields (with effect, since US Troops are correctly instructed to avoid such casualties) should expect to be treated thereafter with the least possible benefit of the doubt.

    Using such shields is a war crime, and they are responsible for any deaths that result. In a sane world, there would be quick and certain punishment for such combatants, and failing to do so means that more civilians will be so used.

    Three things that could be done:

    1) Such combatants would be remanded to authorities for later trial.

    2) Such combatants would have a summary trial in the field.

    3) Such combatants’ surrender would not be accepted.

    Unfortunately, “do-gooders” in the US have made #1 & probably #2 impractical (even though either is specifically allowed under the Genevea Convention — indeed encouraged therein). So, I’d suggest option #3 unless the surrender is such that it cannot possibly be refused.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  17. So, I would turn it around. Are folks here really suggesting that soldiers who use human shields should be treated as ordinary prisoners-of-war, even if this will clearly lead to an INCREASE in the use of human shields and many more civilian deaths. Because IMHO people who would argue that might as well be shooting the civilians themselves.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  18. from a COIN point of view, fewer things are worse than an unrestricted use of force, such as shooting the shields, destroying the entire village, etc…

    the whole goal of COIN is to protect the local population from the OPFOR, and let them be seen as the danger, so that their support from said population dries up. once that happens, the war is pretty much over. for one thing, without support, only the hard core true believers and sociopaths will remain fighting, as the rest will give up and go home, thus reducing the size of the threat.

    let the Taliban/Al Queda get into the same negative feedback loop we put the militias and ADI into in Iraq, where the population quit supporting or ignoring them, and actively turned against them.

    striking hard now feels good, but does harm. better we hold back and win in the long run.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  19. Once upon a time in the far distant past, AP was a reliable and respected news service. That is no longer true. As a result, I am not the only one who regards an AP byline as a cause for suspicion.

    Bar Sinister (ab215b)

  20. redc1c4,
    Well said.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  21. Comment by HeavenSent — 2/18/2010 @ 5:48 am

    But, it is a message that our own Leftists have never assimilated;
    witness the disconnect between condemning Goldwater as a War-Monger for wanting to use any, and all (if neccessary) force to end the VietNam War as quickly as possible, and the drip, drip, drip, of proportional-response advocated by McNamara & Johnson and their acclamation (at the time) as great humanitarians.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2215b9)

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