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Posted: 11/2/2009 6:34:54 PM EST
Families outraged over engagement restrictions

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Nov 2, 2009 9:38:12 EST

Enough is enough. Retired 1st Sgt. John Bernard has had it with the war in Afghanistan.

Enough of “shameful” and “suicidal” rules of engagement that leave U.S. troops vulnerable to ambushes. Enough of worrying more about harming Afghan civilians than American forces. Enough of politics.

Bernard was a scout sniper and platoon sergeant during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, so he’s familiar with the warrior’s creed. But as the father of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, he has reached his limit.

The younger Bernard was killed Aug. 14 by a rocket-propelled grenade, an attack that became a national story after The Associated Press distributed a photograph of Bernard’s son’s last living moments in Dahaneh, Afghanistan. The father wrote his representatives in Congress several times during the weeks leading up to Joshua’s death, each time expressing apprehension about the more-restrictive guidelines put in place by the new commander of U.S. forces there, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

It wasn’t until he was thrust into the spotlight by the AP photo and the controversy that surrounded it that anyone paid him any mind.

After that, things changed.

Bernard, of New Portland, Maine, was mentioned by name Sept. 15 during the Senate confirmation hearing of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Mullen that she had received a letter from Bernard before his son’s death that “expressed serious concerns about the rules of engagement” in Afghanistan. Those rules were altered in July by McChrystal in response to mounting civilian casualties.

The new guidelines call on U.S. forces to limit the use of heavy fire power — close-air support and long-range artillery — when ordinary Afghans may be at risk. A week before Mullen’s hearing, three Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed in an ambush after commanders allegedly refused their requests for fire support for fear it would kill women and children.

“I’m going to send you the letter so that you can read it,” Collins told Mullen, according to a congressional transcript. “I promised Mr. Bernard at [his] son’s funeral that I would do so. And I hope you and General McChrystal will look seriously at the concerns he raises ... about the rules of engagement.”

It wasn’t much, but it was a start, Bernard says now.

A fiery, blunt speaker, Bernard is just one among a growing group of vocal family members whose children were killed in fighting overseas. They support the cause and the troops still in harm’s way, these family members say, but they also believe U.S. forces are handcuffed by rules and tactics and vulnerable as a result, leaving them with little help when such ambushes occur. Some also question whether the U.S. should have launched a counter-insurgency strategy so quickly, rather than employing search-and-destroy missions that proved successful in Afghanistan during the early part of the decade.

“The rules of engagement are so convoluted, so open-ended, that it puts the people on the ground at risk no matter what they do,” said Bernard, who retired from the Corps in 2003. “It’s insane. You don’t let your guys languish there when these things happen. You err on the side of your guys, not the civilians.”

These are not anti-war families. They want the military to succeed in Afghanistan. They’re deeply proud of their fallen sons’ sacrifices.

THE GANJGAL AMBUSH
Army, Marine and Afghan National Army troops experienced the effect of McChrystal’s tighter rules directly Sept. 8, when their small outpost in Ganjgal, in Kunar province near the Pakistan border, was blindsided by insurgents.

Three Marines and a corpsman died that day, and a soldier, 41-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who was shot through the mouth and neck, died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. An embedded reporter with McClatchy News Service, Jonathan Landay, reported that “U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.”

In retrospect, it should have been obvious an attack was imminent, family members believe. Two days before the ambush, the trainers came under RPG fire that killed an Afghan soldier and wounded Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Williamsville, N.Y., and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22, of Riverbank, Calif.

Both decided to stick to their mission, and they were quickly pressed back into action. The morning of the ambush, a group comprising 60 Afghan soldiers, 20 border police officers, and 13 Marine and Army trainers were tasked with searching the fortified village for weapons and meeting with the elders to discuss establishing police patrols, McClatchy reported.

The first shot rang out about 5:30 a.m., when the Marines and Afghan soldiers first reached the village. It took nearly two hours for helicopters to arrive and provide fire support, McClatchy reported.

By then, more than a dozen Afghan troops were dead, as were Kenefick, Layton, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson Jr., 31, of Columbus, Ga., and 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, of Virginia Beach, Va.

Westbrook, out of Fort Riley, Kan., was gravely wounded, but his medical care was delayed because troops carrying him to a helicopter were forced to stop and take cover from insurgent fire several times, Landay reported. The journalist said a Marine lieutenant tossed him Westbrook’s M4 rifle in the heat of the battle, in case he needed it.

FAMILIES SPEAK OUT
While the Pentagon has questioned the accuracy of Landay’s report, the families want answers. They’re angry at the leaders who had a hand in putting the policies in place, including President Barack Obama, McChrystal, Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Commandant Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser.

Susan Price, Kenefick’s mother, said she’s still reeling from her son’s death but has begun to question how the incident could have taken place.

“I’ve spoken to all the other parents, and we’re all interested in knowing why it took so long for the aid call to be filled,” she said. “My son died the way he would have wanted to die. I have no qualms about that. I just have questions about the aid call being rejected and why we were late. It can’t keep happening over and over again. It’s inexcusable.”

Brent Layton, whose son was shot and killed while providing medical attention to 1st Lt. Johnson, agreed.

“They’re out there with their handcuffs on; that’s the way I look at it,” he said. “I was in law enforcement, and it’s just like it is in the military: Your strength is in knowing that you have help coming if you need it. These boys asked for it repeatedly, and they didn’t get it.”

Brian Johnson, the lieutenant’s father, said he had strongly supported Barrack Obama’s run for the presidency, but now is disappointed not only by the adoption of the new rules of engagement, but also by his delay in making a decision on when and if additional troops will deploy to Afghanistan. A decision is expected sometime after an Afghan runoff election scheduled for Saturday; the leading opposition candidate withdrew from the race Sunday, though, and it is now unclear if the election will take place.

An initial round of voting Aug. 20 was characterized by low voter turnout, widespread fraud and intimidation tactics. First Lt. Johnson sent an e-mail to his twin brother Danny not long before he died, according to their father, expressing frustration that on election day his Marines were not allowed to open fire on possible insurgents unless they had “proof positive” the Afghans had ill intent.

“For [Obama] to say he needs to wait because he doesn’t know which government he’s going to be working with is complete bull— because we need a plan that can working regardless of which corrupt government goes in there,” Johnson’s dad said. “I think the president needs to act like a commander-in-chief instead of manager-in-chief and make up his damn mind. Putting this thing off like a management decision is not sitting well with me at all.”

The parents agree on another point, as well: They doubt they’ll ever receive full disclosure on what happened the day their sons died, or who made the decision to deny the requested support.

“We want the names,” Price said. “We want the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how.’ We all have the flag on our home. We all love the Marine Corps; we just want answers.”

Officials with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, headed by McChrystal, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Pentagon officials have said previously that there will be a full investigation of the incident.

FIGHTING BACK
Bernard, the former scout sniper and platoon sergeant, says he knows it wasn’t the new rules of engagement that directly contributed to his son’s death. Lance Cpl. Bernard, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was killed in the opening salvos of a battle in which extra fire support had not been requested.

However, the senior Bernard says there is more to it than that. The overall strategy U.S. forces are using in Afghanistan — especially working side-by-side with Afghan forces whose intentions aren’t clear — should be questioned, he said. The Afghan troops have not proven themselves, but rank-and-file troops have been ordered to rely on their help in battle, Bernard said.

An embedded journalist with the younger Bernard’s company reported after the battle that a young Afghan approached the Marines before the ambush, promising to show them where insurgents had fired on them previously. He begged the troops not to tell them how they knew, though, saying insurgents would kill him if they found out.

When the ambush began, the tipster could not be found, and the interpreter took cover, raising questions in Bernard’s mind about whether they led the Marines into a trap.

“Call me cynical if you want, but some rogue element led them there,” Bernard said. “The bottom line is both of those guys were gone. It’s just another indication of how this counter-insurgency strategy can’t work.”

In an Oct. 13 letter to Collins, Mullen addressed Bernard’s concerns by saying that “the new tactical directive did not change the ROE in Afghanistan, but rather provided more clarification and guidelines regarding the use of force.”

“We have refined our procedures in order to reduce civilian casualties, but at no time have the ROE been modified to place our troops at greater risk,” Mullen wrote. “Our troops still operate under a set of ROE that allows them to protect themselves against enemy actions in balance with protecting the Afghan populace.”

Bernard said the letter is “smoke and mirrors” and overlooks his consistent concern: A counter-insurgency strategy won’t work as long as Afghanistan is filled with warring tribes that have no empathy for the U.S. and its way of life. Counter-insurgency may have helped to pacify Iraq, he said, but the gains came mostly because the U.S. “inundated the country with troops” after a surge in the number of U.S. troops deployed there occurred in 2007.

“I already talked to Collins’ office and said, ‘Don’t let him spin this crap,’ ” Bernard said. “There’s no indication that Afghanistan has changed anywhere. Our mission should be very, very simple: Chase and kill the enemy.”

Collins’ office did not respond to several requests for follow-up comments.

Bernard said he is frustrated that Collins, one of his home state senators and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has handled his complaints as that of a single constituent, rather seeing him for what he is: representative of the hundreds of people he says have contacted him in recent weeks.

“You can’t turn this into one lone idiot in the backwoods of Maine mourning his son,” he said. “This is bigger than that.”
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:36:57 PM EST
Obama-nam.

America gets humiliated, and the service men and their families pay the price.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:40:30 PM EST

All the hills surrounding each outpost should be littered with HD cameras that detect human movement FOR MILES around the outpost. A little money here and there is definitely worth a human life, especially when that life is entrusted to us to make sure he or she comes home alive...

Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:41:05 PM EST

Originally Posted By Danner130:
Obama-nam.

America gets humiliated, and the service men and their families pay the price.

This is exactly what the country voted for.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:43:01 PM EST
google SPC Jared Stanker...there's a conversation that took place between Obama and the deceased soldier's uncle that ran in the newspaper and cbs news I believe, it should come up and it hits the nail on the head
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:43:59 PM EST
That is the only reason why I left.....politics with soldiers lives.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:44:41 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/2/2009 6:45:49 PM EST by Frost7]
One thing has been true of war since the beginning, and will be forever: If you won't fight to win, you deserve to lose, and probably will.

I wish we would stop acting in ways deserving of loss and grow a pair of balls and hand the enemy their ass. It's not like we can't. If we can't, we can't. It's that we won't, and that's what makes it so shameful.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 6:54:39 PM EST

Originally Posted By Frost7:
One thing has been true of war since the beginning, and will be forever: If you won't fight to win, you deserve to lose, and probably will.

I wish we would stop acting in ways deserving of loss and grow a pair of balls and hand the enemy their ass. It's not like we can't. If we can't, we can't. It's that we won't, and that's what makes it so shameful.

WE don't act that way.

Please don't sum up the people of this country as one whole in support of the current administrations actions.

This country is divided, and is currently being led by those who don't put America FIRST.


Link Posted: 11/2/2009 7:14:49 PM EST
I truly believe that Obama and his regime know that about 70% of the .mil are conservative and therefore do not mind them dropping out of the voter pool.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 7:16:45 PM EST
He'll 'make a decision' in the 'next couple of weeks.'







Link Posted: 11/2/2009 7:27:07 PM EST

Originally Posted By jsdoyle:
google SPC Jared Stanker...there's a conversation that took place between Obama and the deceased soldier's uncle that ran in the newspaper and cbs news I believe, it should come up and it hits the nail on the head

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread515707/pg1



To everyone. Spc. Jared Stanker, killed in action is Afghanistan on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 is our nephew. He is my brother Kevin's son. He will certainly be missed. We all loved him very much.

As you probably all know, President Obama was at the Dignified Transfer at Dover AFB in Delaware. I attended with Kevin. We met President Obama and received his condlences. Basically he passed from one family member to another - very dignified. I could not pass up a short, respectful conversation with the President.


President Obama attended the Dignified Transfer of Spc. Jared D. Stanker in the early morning hours of Thursday, October 29, 2009 at Dover AFB, Delaware. He personally and individually expressed his condolences and great appreciation for the service of each soldier coming home.

As he approached Jared’s father, Kevin, and me, our military escort introduced Kevin to the President. The President extended his hand and shook Kevin’s hand and the President expressed the condolences and appreciation of a grateful country. Kevin and he then talked for a minute or two about Jared. Kevin then turned towards me and introduced me to the President as Jared’s Uncle Bob. Once again the President extended his hand to shake my hand and he likewise expressed the condolences and appreciation of Jared’s sacrifice. I shook the President’s hand and simultaneously reached out with my left hand and took hold of his right forearm. I accepted and said thank you to the President for his expression of condolences. I continued to hold his hand in a handshake and continued holding his right forearm with my left hand for the following discussion. As I can best remember, this is what I said:

With all due respect, Mr. President, I feel that you should support our troops in Afghanistan now since YOU decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan in March of this year. If you feel that you cannot give them the support that they need, then I think you should withdraw all troops from Afghanistan NOW since you must feel that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be attained in that part of the world.

President Obama responded by saying that we will always fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At this point I felt that the President thought that the conversation was over. However, I continued holding his right hand and his right forearm.

I responded with this simple question. “When will that decision be made?”

President Obama responded by stating that “that decision will be made in the near future based on wise considerations.”

I simply responded by stating “You’ve had ten months.” At which time I broke the handshake that I had maintained throughout this brief conversation and released his right forearm. Both of which I had maintained throughout this entire conversation.

The President then went on to the next family.

I also heard a radio interview on WLS radio this morning. ABC had interviewed the mother of Sgt. Dale Griffin of Terre Haute, Indiana. The reporter asked Dona Griffin what if anything she said to the President. She said “Mr. President, please don’t leave our troops hanging.” See that brief interview at;

abcnews.go.com...

We are not the silent masses. We do make our voices heard and we do support our troops.

Bob Stanker
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 7:30:38 PM EST
Honestly, what's to stop them from ignoring the rules when it suits them and when they think no one is looking?
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 7:33:23 PM EST

Originally Posted By Strykewolf:
He'll 'make a decision' in the 'next couple of weeks.'







After the elections so he doesn't piss off the liberals...

Link Posted: 11/2/2009 7:52:09 PM EST
But the ARFCOM libs say he has genuine respect for the troops there is even pictures of him saluting the dead as they arrive home.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 8:09:52 PM EST
Originally Posted By DOA:
That is the only reason why I left.....politics with soldiers lives.


That's pretty much how it's always been.
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 8:15:32 PM EST

Originally Posted By turdferguson:
Honestly, what's to stop them from ignoring the rules when it suits them and when they think no one is looking?

That's not how a professional military fights...

And blowing off a General does not work well in terms of career survival...

If the families want to make a difference, they should press Obama to give McCrystal his troops...

NOT go after the Tactical Directive that McCrystal is enforcing with regards to collateral damage....
Link Posted: 11/2/2009 8:26:44 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/2/2009 8:27:12 PM EST by DeezNyuts]
Dave for president...

Has the answer to everything.


ETA: Ive had my fill for the night.. later.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 5:56:04 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/3/2009 5:57:25 AM EST by Stottman]
Sadly, there are only two ways to win.

A moral victory over the Taliban, where the locals support us and view us as helpers. That is our approach. You dont win friends by bombing children, even if by accident.

Killing everyone is the only other way.


More troops are the answer.

Hard to kill the Taliban, when they just hide when we are in a villiage, then go back and punish the villiagers when we leave.


And, last i checked the Military was all volunteer.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 6:19:22 AM EST

Originally Posted By gonzo_beyondo:

Originally Posted By Danner130:
Obama-nam.

America gets humiliated, and the service men and their families pay the price.

This is exactly what the country voted for.

The Democrats WANT "another Vietnam" style loss, they have talked about nothing else for the last eight years. They MUST have it to beat the Republicans with and to try and integrate our Armed Forces into the UN just like Clinton was trying to do. They want the US .mil to be a world police force moving at the whim of the UN and nothing more.

They will lose it and pin it on Bush and the GOP.

That's the difference between serving under a Republican that respects the .mil and the Democrat that despises them.

Fuck Obama.

Link Posted: 11/3/2009 7:05:40 AM EST
Originally Posted By Dave_A:

Originally Posted By turdferguson:
Honestly, what's to stop them from ignoring the rules when it suits them and when they think no one is looking?

That's not how a professional military fights...

And blowing off a General does not work well in terms of career survival...

If the families want to make a difference, they should press Obama to give McCrystal his troops...

NOT go after the Tactical Directive that McCrystal is enforcing with regards to collateral damage....


Actually there's nothing stopping them. A professional SOLDIER, when necessary, finds a way around obstacles that get in the way of his mission, no matter how those obstacles got there.

More troops won't matter if their hands are tied: They'll just create a larger logistics train, which requires more movement, which will create more targets for the bad guys. It's not the restrictions on ordnance that's killing people; it's the inability of soldiers to engage armed enemy combatants while they set up fortified positions with the obvious intention of launching an attack. It's a simple concept but some people just can't figure out that "they shot first", and instead follow the ROE to the letter, ALLOWING themselves to be attacked from heavily fortified positions manned by well armed insurgents, before doing anything.


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