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Thread: Top General in Afghanistan Expels Marines

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Top General in Afghanistan Expels Marines

    23 March Washington Examiner - Top General in Afghanistan Expels Marines by Rowan Scarborough.

    The top American general in Afghanistan has expelled a U.S. Marine special operations company for the way the men responded to an ambush March 4, Marine sources said.

    Maj. Cliff Gilmore, a spokesman for Marine Special Operations Command, confirmed to The Examiner that the company of 120 Marines is redeploying.

    He said the decision followed an ambush on the company's convoy by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. A second Marine source said the Marines retaliated and some civilians were killed.

    The action brought an abrupt end to what promised to be a historic deployment. The unit sailed in January from Camp Lejuene, N.C., as the first Marine Corps special operations company sent overseas. The Corps joined U.S. Special Operations Command a year ago.

    The company is now redeploying to Kuwait after just a few weeks in Afghanistan in what was supposed to be a six-month tour.

    A Marine officer assigned to special operations said Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander, took the extraordinary step of expelling the unit after he consulted with Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai...

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    Default Marines expelled from Afganistan ?

    From the sparse info the Special Ops Company seems to have shot their way out of an ambush . Very curious .

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    Default Enemy war crimes

    To the extent non combatants were killed in the course of this ambush, the primary reason is the enemy's violations of the Geneva Conventions by failing to wear an identifying uniform. The Marines were facing a complex ambush by an enemy that camouflages himself as a civilian. Those who suggest that they should not defend themselves in those circumstances are asking something that goes against survival instincts and training.

    On top of that there is no way of knowing who was responsible for the shots that killed the non combatants without forensic examination of the bodies.

    I suspect that what is happening here is that removing the Marines solves a political problem for the command. I do wish that the commanders involved in this decision would at least explain the enemy war crime which caused the situation. Until we start hammering them on this they will continue to milk these situations for propaganda.

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    Default Not a scape goat, but darn close

    I concur, I wouldn't say the unit is necessarily a scapegoat, because removing them seemed to be a counter propaganda effort to counter AQ and/or Taliban propaganda. Apparently a political line of operation, but was it the right thing to do?

    Of course from where I sit, I don't have a clue on the "rest" of the story, but it "seems" we may have set a bad precedent. Will the Taliban push to get every unit that accidently kills civilians removed from country? Talk about a potentially slippery slope! Where was the counter IO effort putting the blame on the ambushers who sprung an ambush in a populated area?

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    I believe this is that incident:

    US troops kill Afghan civilians
    An incident described by US forces in Afghanistan as a "complex ambush" has left at least eight civilians dead.

    The incident occurred on the road from the eastern city of Jalalabad to Pakistan when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy, sparking a fire fight.

    US officials initially said 16 people had been killed. They did not explain the lower, revised death toll.

    Thousands of local people took to the streets, accusing the Americans of deliberately firing on the civilians.
    ...
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...ia/6416667.stm
    And then this which looks way to much like the cover-up:

    Journalists: U.S. military deleted photos of attack

    Afghan journalists covering the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack and shooting in eastern Afghanistan Sunday said U.S. troops deleted their photos and video and warned them not to publish or air any images of U.S. troops or a car where three Afghans were shot to death.

    Afghan witnesses and gunshot victims said U.S. forces fired on civilians in cars and on foot along at least a six-mile stretch of road in Nangarhar province following a suicide attack against the Marine convoy. The U.S. military said militants also fired on American forces during the attack.
    ...
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapc....ap/index.html

    U.S. military claims deletion of AP footage at attack site in Afghanistan justified

    The U.S. military asserted that an American soldier was justified in erasing journalists' footage of the aftermath of a suicide bombing and shooting in Afghanistan last week, saying publication could have compromised a military investigation and led to false public conclusions.

    The comments came Friday in response to an Associated Press protest that a U.S. soldier had forced two freelance journalists working for the U.S.-based news agency to delete photos and video at the scene of violence March 4 in Barikaw, eastern Afghanistan. At least eight Afghans were killed and 34 wounded.
    ...
    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/...Censorship.php

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    I understand Pertenko's point and God knows that the AP has a really poor track record with photos (Lebenon anyone?) but this probably could have been handled a lot better. The AP, of course, only got part of the overall picture of the event and probably would have used that to paint a fairly poor picture of the Marines involved but now the myths and rumors built around what was deleted will probably be far worse than what was actually there. This is why I am actually in favor of the embed program. I know that puts me in the minority in the military but that is the way I feel. Embeds have gotten a bad wrap because of the actions of a few and the percieved actions of others but they have actually done a decent job. They provide a way to answer the freelancers who come in a portray an unbalenced picture of the military or more impertantly, the myths and rumors that bulild up where no information is coming.

    SFC W

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    What would be journalist's next step in this CNN war? I suppose that due to technological progress all the material will go directly to out of theatre of war servers.

    How far that political correctness can go? Now the unit is rotated to Kuwait, that is firendly Arab state. If this trend continues, you have to rotate every unit that has done something not popular among middle-easterners, directly back to homeland. Al-Jazeera makes Middle-East uncomfortably small and there would be no OEF and OIF, but one big theatre of war where local population's awareness about foreign units that are working in their neighbourhood is very good. Here is list of peaceful things (but very uncomfortable) how locals can respond to this information - http://www.aeinstein.org/organizatio..._methods-1.pdf

    Good thing about this CNN war is that new news make us to forget earlier ones relatively soon

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    My hunch is after the fire fight, taliban supporters removed the weapons from the dead bodies then went running to the reporters crying war crimes

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    I think your faith in the competence of our adversaries is somewhat amusing.

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    Council Member Ironhorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    I think your faith in the competence of our adversaries is somewhat amusing.
    I would not put it that way. There is nothing amusing about their extreme competence, resilience, adaptability, and ruthlessness.

    I do not immediately discount friendly actions, perceived to be somewhere on the over-reaction to atrocity scale, as innocent by default until proven guilty. There certainly are too many conspiracy theories inflating the enemies' all-pervasive cunningness. But there are also too many folks prone to knee-jerk condemn the man in the arena. Just about anything is possible these days, and one should not leap to conclusions.

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    I certainly am not condemning the Marines in question. It wouldn't be the first time nor will it be the last that civilians are caught in the crossfire of an ambush, and there is certainly no evidence I am aware of that the Marines were even responsible for shooting any civilians at all --- as far as we know, which is not much, the Taliban shot the civilians in the ambush, not the Marines. The only way to know for sure is to autopsy the civs and determine whether they were killed by 5.56mm/7.62x51mm or 7.62x39mm --- that is, we will probably never know.

    But to assume automatically that the Taliban were even capable of spiriting away the weaponry to achieve an IO victory, frankly, imputes a lot more competence to the enemy than I have seen evidence of.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Certainly the enemy has smart guys who think like that but those guys tend not to be out there in the fight. They have footsoldiers for that and you don't become a footsoldier for these guys by having a brilliant mind.

    SFC W

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    Well, my question would be, if Marines are not responsible why taking away pictures and erasing the films and memory cards!?

    Letís just not forget all those cases and orders in Iraq and Afghanistan about opening fire 180 degrees in protection of troops, and all those, oh so much, examples of civilians killed shooting randomly or in retaliations or for being there, stuck in the middle.

    I am not here to accuse any brave and honest solder but I wish to point on those cases of random killings of civilians in retaliation, in some cases all families, or just for being there or looking same. I donít think that covering after act will help anyone.

    Just because you can't identify enemy after they hit do that means to open fire around? How many more enemies do this incident, and all those like it, crated? Thatís should be great concern.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Well what appears to have happened here is the Marine convoy was hit with a suicide bomb on a highway. The Marines say that they were then hit with small arms fire, which they returned. The Afghans appear to say that there was no small arms fire and the Marines just opened fire on civilian vehicles, apparently because they feared another VBIED.

    If the Marines did get hit with small arms fire, there's no way to know if the Afghan civs were killed by Taliban or Marine fire, except by autopsies that will likely never be conducted.

    Likely the films and camera memory cards were confiscated on the call of the local unit commander on scene, probably in fear of nasty pictures of dead civilians ending up in the news. Again, no way to know if the Marines were actually guilty, but they knew they would be blamed automatically in many media outlets. A clumsy move probably by a junior leader.

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    Default Now You See, Now You Don't - A Guerilla's Sleight of Hand

    The unit gets hit, they shoot and scoot, regroup and return. Some the taliban fighters that were seen going down now have no weapons on or near them. Said weapons are now hidden or on their way to market or back to the taliban by the time the unit returns. The unit Commander is apprised that x number of taliban went down and now their weapons are gone and journalists are snapping pictures of their bodies. It was the right action and right order to confiscate. If it was a safe environment to spring an ambush it would be suitable too for some Afghans present to claim the KIAs were innocent civilians and quite possible for some to intentionally remove AKs, etc from the scene, for whatever purpose. I think Eikenberry is the one who acted irrationally here.

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    Just a coupla points.

    1. NOBODY knows exactly what happened on the ground. In many ways what exactly happened is irrelavent, it's the message, as most of you in this forum know.

    2. Eikenberry tends to be very measured in his actions, so I wonder what led him down this road.

    3. Removing the SOF co. could both protect them from "honor" killings in the future while at the same time redressing local complaints. i.e. net "plus" for the strategy while accepting tactical defeat.

    We'll probably never know the whole story regarding ANY of the points above.

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    But thatís exactly the point. No pictures, no proof of wrongdoing, no accountabilityÖ Letís not made A-Stan like Iraq where all those killings and abuses are discovered and some (those unlucky ones) end up being punished for rapes and murders.

    If they kill one of us, let destroy all freaking country (no matter them being guilty or not) but who cares that they are dying like fliesÖ They are just bunch of rugheads anyways. And, letís not forget, they are guilty not accepting our will and orders.

    Sorry, I belong to those that canít accept things like that. On the end, those people, family members and friends will know and they will join or start supporting and hiding resistance even more now. And, we donít want that, right?

    And, yes Old Eagle, we'll probably never know the whole story. Definitely not now.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Sarajevo you are make some very broad and wholey unsupportable claims here. Can you point to even a SHRED of evidence of the type of mass coverups that you are implying? Of course not, because there is none. Speaking as someone who has actually been to Iraq I can say that even the appearance of wrong doing can get you slammed never mind if you actually did something. IF all we were concerned about was imposing our "will and orders" we would simply flatten this country and be done with it. We would not have American sevice members dying nearly every day side by side with the IA and IPs trying to help this country. As for accountability comment, the pictures were not proof of anything. They were pictures of one small part of a larger event and lacked context. What exactly do pictures of a truck with some dead bodies in prove? It does not prove who shot them or why. Context is everything and some media outlets have proven themselves to masters at manipulating or ignoring the context.

    SFC W

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    I base my words on stuff I read and saw in many, many testimonies, articles, and movies by veterans themselves. You are asking for proofs... If we have "proof" there wouldn't be cover-ups. What I can tell you is to remind you how Military tried to cover other cases (you heard same stories like all of us) and you know how they tried or they did cover that up.

    From damaging Babylon, theft of Iraqi gold and museum artifacts, to the Tillman case, British soldier and American pilots case, Haditha case, Abu Gharib case, Samara case... There is more and I think you heard about all those killings and rapes of civilians by "mistakes" or by orders of free fire. Contractors are without any control or blame, Military is free of responsibility to the International or Iraqi courts...

    Regarding "we would simply flatten this country and be done with it" I firmly believe that decade long sanctions that killed 500,000 kids, OIF I and "Highway of Death", and now this coming in frame of "flattening country" but not so obvious so more people will not fight back and with preserving territorial integrity to preserve sucking the oil out.

    I am finding very noble of you that you are not one of those soldiers (and I know there are minority) since U.S. Military have long and pretty much good history of noble causes, but this war is not one of them. I agree with you that you stand up for what you believe and I didnít want to insult you or ANY other real and decent soldier. I was trying to point out some wrong steps that can (and they did) backfire on whole idea of bringing peace and democracy in that parts of Word.

    My sensitivity on civilian deaths, rapes and maimed kids toke better of me. My bad. I will try to control my words.

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Sarajevo's comments are, regardless of the truth on the ground, representative of a large portion of World Opinion, and We, the US, must deal with it or not, depending on what We decide to do.

    Interesting to hear and know, taken in that context.

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