Leveling the battlefield against the JV Team.
As the Afghanistan War grinds into its 15th year, many U.S. military officers are telling Congress their hands are tied to go after the enemy, particularly the Islamic State, which is building up its presence in the country despite fierce opposition from the Taliban.
Current and former U.S. military officials tell me that the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan is almost entirely focused on the re-emergence of al-Qaida and that strikes against Islamic State leaders are scarce.
Afghan news media reported one such strike over the weekend in the province of Nangarhar. In July, U.S. airstrikes reportedly killed Hafez Saeed, an Islamic State leader, in what the group has called its Khorasan province. But U.S. officials tell me the rules of engagement in Afghanistan are highly restrictive.
“There are real restrictions about what they can do against the ISIS presence in Afghanistan,” Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told me about the rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Thornberry said that the rules of engagement, combined with what he called micromanagement from the White House, have led military officers to tell him they have to go through several unnecessary and burdensome hoops before firing at the enemy.
“My understanding is it’s a very confused, elaborate set of requirements,” Thornberry said. “I think the effect of going through all of that makes it harder for our people to conduct their missions.”
He would not get into specifics about the rules, saying, “If the public were able to know all the restrictions placed on our troops, they would be unhappy about it, and if the enemy knew this they would have more of a leg up than they do now.”