Some American and Afghan troops say
they're fighting the latest offensive in Afghanistan with a handicap — strict rules that routinely force them to hold their fire.
"I understand the reason behind it, but it's so hard to fight a war like this
," said Lance Cpl. Travis Anderson
, 20, of Altoona, Iowa. "They're using our rules of engagement against us
," he said, adding that his platoon had repeatedly seen men drop their guns into ditches and walk away to blend in with civilians
If a man emerges from a Taliban hideout after shooting erupts, U.S. troops say
they cannot fire at him if he is not seen carrying a weapon — or if they did not personally watch him drop one.
What this means, some contend
, is that a militant can fire at them, then set aside his weapon and walk freely out of a compound, possibly toward a weapons cache in another location. It was unclear how often this has happened. In another example, Marines pinned down by a barrage of insurgent bullets say
they can't count on quick air support because it takes time to positively identify shooters.
"This is difficult
," Lance Cpl. Michael Andrejczuk
, 20, of Knoxville, Tenn., said
Monday. "We are trained like when we see something, we obliterate it. But here, we have to see them and when we do, they don't have guns
NATO and Afghan military officials say
killing militants is not the goal of a 3-day-old attack to take control of this Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. More important is to win public support.
They acknowledge that the rules entail risk to its troops
, but maintain that civilian casualties or destruction of property can alienate the population and lead to more insurgent recruits, more homemade bombs and a prolonged conflict.