September 8, 2006:
NATO commanders in Afghanistan are not happy with all the strings attached to their authority by politicians back home. The ROE (Rules of Engagement) for NATO troops contain over seventy restrictions on how the NATO commander may use troops assigned to him. Most of these have to do with where national contingents can be moved, and how much they can be exposed to danger.
In the last six weeks, the NATO force of 20,000 troops has suffered 38 dead, but has killed about twenty times as many Taliban fighters. The NATO troops are good at what they do, but they could do more, and at less risk to themselves, if the NATO commanders had fewer strings attached to who can be used where and how. That would seem impossible, given that three dozen NATO nations have troops in Afghanistan. But it's only the major contributors of combat forces that NATO commanders are really worried about. Of particular concern is the German contingent of nearly 2,000 troops. Current ROE restricts the German troops to Kabul.
By going public with complaints about the ROE problem, the NATO commanders are setting up the politicians back home to take the heat for any casualties in Afghanistan. It also puts pressure on the politicians to ease up on the ROEs, which were created mainly to win political points back home.