Rules of war have changed

Throughout history, generals and other world leaders have tried their best to keep their battle plans a secret, allowing only the highest ranking leaders to know the relevant information. Many believe the element of surprise is key to winning battles. Many leaders claim giving the enemy advanced warning of an invasion would be military suicide.

Aaron Rovner | Daily Trojan

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization doesn’t seem to think so.

Prior to its recent invasion of the Taliban filled region of Marja in Southern Afghanistan, NATO had widely publicized its invasion plans for the past couple of weeks to both the international media and local Afghan leaders.

Many were quick to criticize NATO for this, claiming that advanced warning of a military assault would give the Taliban time to prepare for battle. Plus, such a strategy was previously implemented on a much smaller scale to mediocre results.

However, NATO had a different effect in mind.

Routinely criticized by human rights organizations as well as some world leaders for the civilian deaths in combat operations, NATO decided to take a different approach to save innocent lives. By advertising the invasion weeks before it actually happened, NATO leaders felt Afghan families living in the region would take notice and leave the area. Refugee camps were set up outside of the battle area and were prepared to take the onslaught of residents living in Marja. NATO also thought perhaps the earlier advertising of the invasion would convince insurgents to leave the area.

NATO is hoping its new attempt in Marja to actively save civilian lives will help reduce criticism from various organizations that have been critical of NATO’s collateral damage in Afghanistan. Groups, including several at USC, have protested against the killing of civilians, in general, during war. Organizations such as Food Not Bombs have condemned the West’s military actions and its support of military actions around the world that have resulted in the deaths of innocent people.

Many human rights groups have staged protests against NATO across the world, including university campuses. By trying out this new strategy in Marja, NATO is trying to fix its poor image when it comes to human rights.

Reaction to the advertising campaign has been mixed. Thousands of Afghans living in Marja did manage to make it to the refugee camp, but many others were prevented from leaving because of Taliban threats and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on main roads.

According to The Economist, Stanley McChrystal, the American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Marja would be an important test for this new counter-insurgent strategy. Furthermore, he claimed the security NATO will provide to the residents as well as basic governance will be very important in winning the trust of the locals. McChrystal emphasized that the people of Marja will receive the benefits of “better government, economic opportunities and of living under the rule of law.”

Along with the capture of noted Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi, Pakistan and the increased aggression of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the tide seems to be turning against the Taliban, at least for the time being. It is vital to keep the pressure on the Taliban, however, and not let up.

NATO’s new focus on actively trying to prevent civilian casualties along with an increased aggressiveness against Taliban-infested regions seems to have saved innocent lives. A pause in the offensive might give the Taliban enough time to re-group, so it is crucial to not stop pressuring the militants until they are defeated.

Some optimists have claimed the light at the end of the tunnel is slowly starting to show. Let’s hope it’s not an illusion.

Angad Singh is a sophomore majoring in international relations.

6 replies
  1. Rich
    Rich says:

    I reasd what alot of people who live in Afghanistan have to say. those who are not radical muslims or who ae not drug dealers are happy we are there, especially the women who were victimized by the Taliban everyday. Also, as a former Marine, i talk to alot of guys who have spent alot of time there, and know exactly whats going on. As for your claim that Bush went into Iraq under flase pretenses…your wrong. 3 different countries intel agencies were telling Bush the same thing our CIA was telling him, WMD were in Iraq, and we have found evidence that in fact there were, not to mention satellite photos of trucks crossing into Syria before the invasion. You can stick your head in the sand and cater to our enemy’s so people in other countries will “like” you, but the fact is that Saddam was a bad guy who was a threat to world security, and why liberals wanted to let him continue his wrath of terror on his own people mystifies me. If you are so desperate for the world to like you Jack, talk to them about how gererous we are when other countries have disasters. Try NOT blaming the USA for everything, and try FOR ONCE focusing on the generosity of the American people, as that is what truly makes us great. War is somehthing we need to use at times to protect our people so they have the freedom to bad mouth theior own country, like you do.

  2. Jack
    Jack says:


    You do realize that U.S. officials made the decision to invade Iraq, and Afghanistan, right? The former on false pretenses? Secondly, have you ever been to Afghanistan? Have you ever spoken to someone from Afghanistan? Are you aware of the way of life prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan?

  3. Rich
    Rich says:

    No. I feel very badly for the kids that their parents and other adults are too cowardly to take a stand against those that bring destruction to their country both before and after the US invasion, but other then that…NO. They knew what was going on, and probably could guess what the consequences would be. the Taliban and Saddam were killing civilains long before we got there. hopefully once we are done, the terrorists will have one less place to hide, the civilians can live in peace, and the USA w will be have one less enemy. In war, civilians die, its that simple. We need to worry about our people first.

  4. Jack
    Jack says:


    How many Afghani civilians and Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasions? Does that maybe make up for things, in your mind, just a little?

  5. Rich
    Rich says:

    If the “innocent” citizens had stopped the radical factions such as the Taliban from getting power in the first place, AND allowing terrorist training and other activities from taking place on their soil, there would be no American troops there is the first place. The citizens of Afghanistan have some accountability to what takes place in their own country. We are there because they allowed terrorists activities to go on that resulted in the deaths of 3000 Americans. Instead of being crital of civilan deaths, how about being critical of the countrys citizens for allowing such activities to go on in their country that resulted in the war. I dont think NATO or the US should care what these “anti American activists” think anyway. Most of them are not out there sacrificing for their country, and probably never will. Its disgusting. We are trying to protect our citizens, and all they can do is protest against the very troops that are protecting their soft hineys.

  6. Joe
    Joe says:

    The key to defeating the Taliban is to convince the local people that we’re going to stick around and keep them safe. In the past, people have sided with the Taliban when they expected the US to leave, because the Taliban would simply threaten people, “as soon as they leave, we’re coming right back, so you’d better stay loyal to us.” I think that announcing the entry into Marjah is part of that strategy — establish the expectations among the people that this time, the good guys are going to stay until permanent security is established.

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