KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- To the U.S. Army soldiers and Marines serving here, some things seem so obviously true that they are beyond debate. Among those perceived truths: Tthe restrictive rules of engagement that they have to fight under have made serving in combat far more dangerous for them, while allowing the Taliban to return to a position of strength.
"If they use rockets to hit the [forward operating base] we can't shoot back because they were within 500 meters of the village. If they shoot at us and drop their weapon in the process we can't shoot back," said Spc. Charles Brooks, 26, a U.S. Army medic with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, in Zabul province.
Word had come down the morning Brooks spoke to this reporter that watch towers surrounding the base were going to be dismantled because Afghan village elders, some sympathetic to the Taliban, complained they were invading their village privacy. "We have to take down our towers because it offends them and now the Taliban can set up mortars and we can't see them," Brooks added, with disgust.
In June, Gen. David Petraeus, who took command here after the self-inflicted demise of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told Congress that he was weighing a major change with rules for engaging enemy fighters in Afghanistan. That has not yet happened, troops say. Soldiers and Marines continue to be held back by what they believe to be strict rules imposed by the government of President Hamid Karzai designed with one objective: limit Afghan civilian casualties.
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