One of the problems plaguing our troops in Afghanistan is the specter of civilian casualties. Operations routinely take place in urban or suburban areas, and civilians get caught in the cross-fire, or become collateral damage in air strikes. This isn’t just confined to Afghanistan either, as a low-key air operation against terrorists in Waziristan is used as a propaganda weapon as the enemy parades scenes of dead civilians on Al Jazheera.
The civilian casualties aren’t the problem here. The way that the American Administration deals with it is. The previous Administration was inept at communication, and the present administration is simply inept.
First of all, let’s absolve ourselves of some guilt here. By definition, all of our enemies in this part of the world are civilians. They do not wear a uniform, and are not part of a recognized governmental armed force. So the definition of a non-combatant in this region is one who is not currently shooting at someone. This fact has not been stated by our leadership, and it needs to be.
Second, a message needs to be sent to the residents of this region. There are some very bad people in your countries who have declared that they are enemies of the United States, and have demonstrably put their words into action. We want these people dead, very badly. You have a pretty good idea of who these people are. It’s in your best interests to stay as far away from these people as possible, because when we find them – and we will – we are going to blow them up. You really don’t want to be in the area when this happens. If you choose to associate with these people, or tolerate them living next to you, don’t claim to be an innocent victim when things start exploding around you.
If you invite a known, wanted terrorist into your house or mosque, or if you attend a meeting or ceremony with same, it’s your fault if you or your loved ones are maimed or killed when we go after him. Stay away from the terrorists, move slowly and keep your hands in plain sight at all times, and you’ll be quite safe. Remember, treat the Islamic terrorist as if he’s likely to violently explode at any time with no warning, and you won’t be far wrong.
The best advice that I can give is that if you find yourself in the presence of a sworn enemy of the USA, place as much distance between you and he as possible. Two kilometers is a good minimum. To remove uncertainty from your life, you could report the location of the enemy to the nearest NATO unit - preferably one with a Forward Air Controller. Or better yet, if you deliver the enemies of the USA to any US military unit, you may be handsomely rewarded. Dead or alive, we really don’t care much.
Our administration and military leadership needs to make the realities of war clear to the residents of the area, and come to grips with the idea that this is a war, and that civilian casualties will be unavoidable. The alternative is that we tie the hands of our soldiers with ridiculous rules of engagement that guarantee that victory cannot be achieved. They need to bow their heads in sorrow when civilians are hurt, but recognize that this is an insurgency, and that any civilian in the presence of a terrorist or combatant is likely there by choice, because they support the combatant in some way or other.
The idea that we have called off operations that could have killed Bin Laden and other high ranking enemies because there would be civilian casualties is just plain ludicrous. Those people are close to these targets because they want to be. They support the enemy with aid and comfort, they are not friends of the USA and never will be, and should be treated as enemies themselves.