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Jabhat Al-Nusra and others exploit our rules for their benefit on the battlefield

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Noah Smith

The Independent wrote the recent name change of Jabhat Al-Nusra will not keep them from being bombed. But, it just might because it removes Jabhat Al-Nusra from an official list of terrorist organizations. They’ve distanced themselves from Al-Qaeda, which requires more investigation and validation. It will mean a world of difference for them. Because we’re bureaucrats and bureaucracy dictates how we fight. How we engage in battle is prescribed by our laws and the classification of the combatant is paramount. Jabhat Al – Nusra is aware of our framework and limitations and will undoubtedly exploit it.

In Afghanistan, the first time I was shot at was an attack on our small outpost of an Afghan mud house. The firefight went on for awhile and afterward, the Taliban members dropped off their weapons and walked around. They kept their distance, but walked around our perimeter – I could have hit them with a heavy rock. But, they knew we couldn’t shoot an unarmed civilian because we had no guarantee it was not a civilian casualty. They eventually walked around enough to get back azimuths that were used for a week’s long barrage of rocket attacks that escalated into mortar fire onto the compound. We even had trouble getting support because we didn’t use the appropriate language to declare we were in a TIC (Troops in Contact). In fact, we were denied close air support at the time. There were only 6 of us Americans defending the base at the time.