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Posted by on Jun 23, 2009 in Places | 12 comments

Stop Publishing Our Military Strategies!

With a hat tip to Ed at Hot Air, we find out that U.S. forces in Afghanistan will soon stop attacking Taliban elements in urban and suburban areas where civilian casualties are more likely.

KABUL — The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will soon formally order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians, a U.S. official said Monday.

The order would be one of the strongest measures taken by a U.S. commander to protect Afghan civilians in battle. American commanders say such deaths hurt their mission because they turn average Afghans against the government and U.S. and NATO forces.

While I’m a veteran myself, I won’t pretend to be enough of an expert on battle tactics to question the decisions of our commanders in the field. Personally, I tend to agree with Ed in that we’re likely ceding some ground to the people we’re trying to defeat, but I also understand their concern over “winning the battle but losing the war” if civilian deaths jeopardize the overall mission. But that’s not my main problem with this story.

Why is this in the Associated Press running this story at all? I’m 100% behind openness in government, particularly here at home, but there are some things that we really don’t need to know, at least in real time. And our battle strategies in the middle of a war certainly fall into that category. We can find out about these things in full later on. Also, the military can brief our elected representatives on such things in private and let them handle our interests in the matter. We don’t need to send press releases to the Taliban to let them know how to plan their next assault.

A large portion of the civilians in Afghanistan – particularly in the mountain areas well away from the urban centers – are living only a few steps above a hunter gatherer society. Vast areas have no electricity, to say nothing of phones, radio, television and the internet. But the Taliban does indeed have access to information. They run their own web sites, they have satellite phones… word gets around.

They’ll figure it out soon enough, I’m sure, but why broadcast the play before the ball is snapped? This will only embolden them to attack and cause mayhem if they know they can safely hole up in somebody’s house. Freedom of the press is wonderful, but running stories like this is criminally stupid.

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