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Targeted killings

dapaterson

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This is a political war, and it calls for the utmost discrimination in killing. The best weapon for killing is a knife, but I'm afraid we can't do it that way. The next best is a rifle. The worst is an airplane, and after that the worst is artillery. You have to know who you are killing.
    Lt Col Paul Vann, as told to David Halberstam


Intelligence and cultural awareness are keys to success.  Military intelligence is undergoing growing pains right now, as their past model of counting tanks and identifying which enemy formation is in contact does not meet the needs of the battlespaces where we currently operate.

There's also the overused expression "we must consider second and third order effects of our actions".  No man is an island; in some instances removing one leader may create more opposition to us; in some instances it is better to co-opt them.  We have in the past and will in the future make arrangements and make settlements with individuals or groups we find morally reprehensible.  Sometimes such agreements work out and succeed in creating peace; other times they fail.
 

Greymatters

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dapaterson said:
Intelligence and cultural awareness are keys to success.  Military intelligence is undergoing growing pains right now, as their past model of counting tanks and identifying which enemy formation is in contact does not meet the needs of the battlespaces where we currently operate. 

A much needed sweeping out of ideas that dont work, and acceptance of new ones that some were reluctant to accept... 
 

TrexLink

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MCG - put that way, gotcha, completely correct.

I think it is always better to co-opt than to simply kill in such cases. The benefits can be enormous. The British won in Malaya in large part because of this, ditto Kenya.
 

dglad

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Thucydides said:
They are not treated as "PW's" because they are not "PW's". They do not fit the definitions of lawful combatants as defined in the various Geneva Conventions, and as noted above, they operate in a manner which is vile and criminal in every regard.

Just to be clear, I'm NOT advocating against taking out Taliban leaders.  However, if we're going to do so under the guise of conducting legitimate military operations, then it becomes problematic when you adopt the above attitude.  Some of the individuals currently in custody in places like Gitmo were captured while fully fitting the definition of combatants--they were armed, were engaging friendly forces with direct fire and were making no effort to conceal that fact (beyond normal battlefield tactics of concealment, etc.)  In 2004, the US Supreme Court disagreed with the US administration's view that the laws and customs of war did not apply to the U.S. armed conflict with Al Qaeda fighters during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and further that the Geneva Conventions, most notably the Third Geneva Convention and also article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (requiring humane treatment) applies to all detainees in the War on Terror.  Now, I don't profess to be an expert in interpreting high court rulings, especially when it's the high court of a foreign power...but at the very least, the matter of whether these are PWs or not is a legal grey area.  In such a case, I think it behooves one to err on the side of caution.  All that means, really, is that we consider ourselves at war, treat the detainees as PWs unless there is clear and compelling evidence on a case by case basis that they shouldn't be...and then targeting and killing leadership becomes a far less ambiguous legal issue in legal terms.
 

a_majoor

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Targetted killing and the treatment of captives are really two different issues.

If killing an insurgent will disrupt their command and control networks, disable a technical or logistics network and otherwise reduce their ability to prosecute actions against us, then I say it is probably the most efficient method of "kinetic" action against insurgents.

Capturing people can have the same results, and of course captured people have value for our intelligence operations. What I was alluding to is that capturing a person who is operating in violation of the Geneva Conventions is to capture an illegal combatant, and such a person is not a "PW" by any accepted definition. How they are treated is important, but holding them in detention does not violate their "rights", and they have no claim to additional privilages as outlined by the various conventions.
 

TrexLink

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Thucydides said:
...capturing a person who is operating in violation of the Geneva Conventions is to capture an illegal combatant, and such a person is not a "PW" by any accepted definition. How they are treated is important, but holding them in detention does not violate their "rights", and they have no claim to additional privileges as outlined by the various conventions.

That's the most succinct summation of the Conventions I've read in far too long.  Ever thought of trying for the Supreme Court?  There seems to be a need.
 

TrexLink

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dglad said:
All that means, really, is that we consider ourselves at war, treat the detainees as PWs unless there is clear and compelling evidence on a case by case basis that they shouldn't be...and then targeting and killing leadership becomes a far less ambiguous legal issue in legal terms. In 2004, the US Supreme Court disagreed with the US administration's view that the laws and customs of war did not apply to the U.S. armed conflict with Al Qaeda fighters during the 2001 U.S. invasion of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and further that the Geneva Conventions, most notably the Third Geneva Convention and also article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (requiring humane treatment) applies to all detainees in the War on Terror.   
Sorry, but all that ruling proves is how out of touch with reality and the intent of the Conventions those nine suits really are.  Those who abide by the Conventions (including those who rise spontaneously to resist a foreign invader) are legal combatants and are fully entitled to every protection and warm fuzzy the Conventions can offer.  Those who do not abide by the Conventions... well, in my simple universe, you can't suck and blow at the same time.  The Taliban, in my humble opinion, have as much right to protection under the Conventions as a crack-crazed pedophile - which is to say the square root of Diddly divided by the reciprocal of Squat.  Those wingnuts trying to get the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied to Taliban prisoners should have the *%^#!!s  paroled into their own personal custody.
 

Yrys

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Greymatters said:
They can be replaced, but there's no guarantee that the new leaders will by followed by everyone or that everyone will listen to them...

That had me wondering about how it went down for the IRA ... and what lessons learned could be usefulll.
Seems that I've got some clues and answers here :

Time to talk to al-Qaida, senior police chief urges

Britain should negotiate with leaders of al-Qaida as part of a new strategy to end its violent campaign, one of the country's most senior police officers has said.

Speaking to the Guardian, Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said the experiences of his force tackling the IRA had convinced him that
policing alone - detecting plots and arresting people - would not defeat al-Qaida inspired terrorism. Orde, the frontrunner to be the next commissioner of the
Metropolitan police, said he could not think of a single terrorism campaign in history that ended without negotiation.

Asked whether Britain should attempt to talk to al-Qaida, he said: "If you want my professional assessment of any terrorism campaign, what fixes it is talking and
engaging and judging when the conditions are right for that to take place. "Is that a naive statement? I don't think it is ... It is the reality of what we face.
"If somebody can show me any terrorism campaign where it has been policed out, I'd be happy to read about it, because I can't think of one."
...
It is Orde's remarks on talking to al-Qaida that stand out.

In Ulster, more than 30 years of fighting terrorism by the British army and Royal Ulster Constabulary could not bring an end to the violence. A peace process brought an
end to the Troubles, seeing life-long enemies such as Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley talk to each other, and now Catholics and Protestants serve in government together.

Orde said: "If you look at some of the biggest risks my people have taken it is talking to people who historically they would not have dreamed of talking to. Were we
going to actually police our way out of the Troubles? No. Are we actually going to police our way out of the current threat? No." He added: "It means thinking the
unthinkable."

Orde became the first head of the police force in Ulster to meet Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA. He cited this as an example of how
one-time enemies can become partners in peace. "Did I think in 1977 when I joined the Met ... I would end up talking to Gerry Adams in 2004 - and bear in mind the
campaign was in London? Absolutely unthinkable."

Orde's comments are at odds with the stance of the British government and senior counter terrorism officials who dismiss talk of negotiating with al-Qaida.
Asked if he was saying "we should talk to al-Qaida", Orde replied: "Well that's the logic of ... I don't think that's unthinkable, the question will be one of timing."

He said there was a need to maintain tough law enforcement against the terrorists and that would help bring them to the negotiating table. He gave this assessment of
why the IRA put down its weapons: "It got to a point where those combatants realised ... certainly on the republican side, it wasn't ever going to work. So there's a
certain pragmatism in there. The question, does Bin Laden see it that way, probably not. If you don't ask, you don't know."

Article continue on link.

My civilian mind presume that when you are targeting killing, negociations would be difficult to open. So could it  be "tough law enforcement"
then negotiations like he suggests ?
 

dglad

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TrexLink said:
Sorry, but all that ruling proves is how out of touch with reality and the intent of the Conventions those nine suits really are.  Those who abide by the Conventions (including those who rise spontaneously to resist a foreign invader) are legal combatants and are fully entitled to every protection and warm fuzzy the Conventions can offer.  Those who do not abide by the Conventions... well, in my simple universe, you can't suck and blow at the same time.  The Taliban, in my humble opinion, have as much right to protection under the Conventions as a crack-crazed pedophile - which is to say the square root of Diddly divided by the reciprocal of Squat.  Those wingnuts trying to get the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied to Taliban prisoners should have the *%^#!!s  paroled into their own personal custody.

First of all, whether you like the Supreme Court or not, they are the highest court in the US (or Canada, if you're talking about ours).  Since what fundamentally separates us from terrorists and their ilk is the rule of law, you can certinaly complain about the SC--but you also have to abide by their rulings.

Secondly, you can't simply say that a particular group should be denied protection under something like the Geneva Convention, because of who they are.  There are many Taliban who are cowardly terrorists who launch surprise attacks on innocents--fine, they clearly aren't combatants.  But there have also been Taliban who have engaged NATO forces in direct fire combat--fulfilling all the normal requirements of being considered a combatant--and have been subsequently captured.  Some of these are being held in Gitmo and are not being treated as PWs.  Each case must be evaluated on its own merits, which is essentially what the Supreme Court is saying.  Instead, the US (to single out the most obvious example) has chosen to uniformly not treat these individuals as combatants, which means they're not strictly adhering to the Laws of Armed Conflict, which means they've opened up a chink in the argument that targeted killings are strictly military operations.  As you say, you can't suck and blow.  Once you begin arguing points of law, you open the door to the WHOLE BODY of law...so you'd better make sure you're consistent.

I agree that HOW detainees are treated is an extremely important issue, regardless of their legal status.  But it's also an entirely separate issue.
 

George Wallace

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dglad said:
First of all, whether you like the Supreme Court or not, they are the highest court in the US (or Canada, if you're talking about ours).  Since what fundamentally separates us from terrorists and their ilk is the rule of law, you can certinaly complain about the SC--but you also have to abide by their rulings.

Secondly, you can't simply say that a particular group should be denied protection under something like the Geneva Convention, because of who they are.  There are many Taliban who are cowardly terrorists who launch surprise attacks on innocents--fine, they clearly aren't combatants.  But there have also been Taliban who have engaged NATO forces in direct fire combat--fulfilling all the normal requirements of being considered a combatant--and have been subsequently captured.  Some of these are being held in Gitmo and are not being treated as PWs.  Each case must be evaluated on its own merits, which is essentially what the Supreme Court is saying.  Instead, the US (to single out the most obvious example) has chosen to uniformly not treat these individuals as combatants, which means they're not strictly adhering to the Laws of Armed Conflict, which means they've opened up a chink in the argument that targeted killings are strictly military operations.  As you say, you can't suck and blow.  Once you begin arguing points of law, you open the door to the WHOLE BODY of law...so you'd better make sure you're consistent.

I agree that HOW detainees are treated is an extremely important issue, regardless of their legal status.  But it's also an entirely separate issue.

Sorry dglad, but I strongly disagree with you.  You can not have your cake and eat it too.  You can not say that you will abide by the SC and throw the Geneva Conventions out the window.  Sorry, but the SC is a 'national' body, while the Geneva Conventions are 'international' and the Rules by which all NATO Members abide by.

Your comments about combatants are also RTFOTL.  Just because a Terrorist should be engaging NATO troops in what "appears" to be direct combat at the time of capture, but was acting as a cowardly terrorist for 99.99999999999999999999% of the rest of his 'history', does not make him a 'legitimate combatant' under the Geneva Conventions.  Where is his uniform?  Where is his 'formed military unit'?  Sorry, but I do not accept a Terrorist Cell as a formal military unit.  Nor do I accept not wearing a uniform, so that one can withdraw and fade into a civilian population to expedite their escape, a legitimate form of combat. 

Your concepts are sadly lacking the depth and experience.
 

TrexLink

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dglad - I understand where you are coming from.  I will - of course! - obey the law. That doesn't mean I have to like it or agree with the interpretations put on it by people in air-conditioned offices thousands of miles away. 

As to Taliban status, engaging in open combat is just one of the requirements under the Conventions.  Article 4.1.2 of the Third Geneva Convention includes POW status to irregular forces IF they meet the following conditions:

Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that they fulfill all of the following conditions:

    * that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;  Probably, usually
    * that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;  Almost never
    * that of carrying arms openly;  Rarely
    * that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. Don't joke!


The bottom line for this layman - my opinion - is that the Taliban and the other thugs running around that sad nation, having failed to meet their own responsibilities under the Conventions, have no more claim to POW status (or protection under the Conventions) than a member of a Winnpeg street gang.  They are criminals, not legitimate combatants. At least the street gangs normally wear colours...


 

McG

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George Wallace said:
Sorry dglad, but I strongly disagree with you.  You can not have your cake and eat it too.  You can not say that you will abide by the SC and throw the Geneva Conventions out the window.  Sorry, but the SC is a 'national' body, while the Geneva Conventions are 'international' and the Rules by which all NATO Members abide by.
Actually, he is suggesting we need to adhere to both.

George Wallace said:
Your comments about combatants are also RTFOTL.  Just because a Terrorist should be engaging NATO troops in what "appears" to be direct combat at the time of capture, but was acting as a cowardly terrorist for 99.99999999999999999999% of the rest of his 'history', does not make him a 'legitimate combatant' under the Geneva Conventions.  Where is his uniform?  Where is his 'formed military unit'?  Sorry, but I do not accept a Terrorist Cell as a formal military unit. 
The TB are insurgents and the label "terrorist" cannot be uniformly applied to their ranks (although it most certainly applies to those who target the civillian population for coercion and acts of violence.  As per the Article 5 of the 3 rd  Geneva Convention "Should any doubt arise whether persons, having committed a belligerent act..." is a prisoner of war "...such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

It may very well be that there is no doubt as to the status of combatants (in regards to PW status or not).  However, a counter insurgency force must also consider the risks associated with a public perception that there could/should be doubt.
 

TrexLink

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One thing I will admit puzzles me.  At the Nuremberg trials, the International Military Tribunal (essentially the court) declared certain groups or organizations to be criminal organizations.  Examples of these included the Gestapo, the SD, etc.  This gave member states the right to try individuals for membership in that organization; it was assumed that the criminal nature of the body was proved without further evidence.  How much simpler it would seem for the Taliban to have been declared a criminal organization.  Any lawyers out there who could share some light on this?
 

Greymatters

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TrexLink said:
How much simpler it would seem for the Taliban to have been declared a criminal organization. 

It was a lot easier to do something like that back then.  There were few international legal associations, no truely international courts, and the military was pretty much calling the shots with the civilian organizations trailing along in the wake.  Completely different situation nowadays...
 

dglad

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George Wallace said:
Sorry dglad, but I strongly disagree with you.  You can not have your cake and eat it too.  You can not say that you will abide by the SC and throw the Geneva Conventions out the window.  Sorry, but the SC is a 'national' body, while the Geneva Conventions are 'international' and the Rules by which all NATO Members abide by.

Your comments about combatants are also RTFOTL.  Just because a Terrorist should be engaging NATO troops in what "appears" to be direct combat at the time of capture, but was acting as a cowardly terrorist for 99.99999999999999999999% of the rest of his 'history', does not make him a 'legitimate combatant' under the Geneva Conventions.  Where is his uniform?  Where is his 'formed military unit'?  Sorry, but I do not accept a Terrorist Cell as a formal military unit.  Nor do I accept not wearing a uniform, so that one can withdraw and fade into a civilian population to expedite their escape, a legitimate form of combat. 

Your concepts are sadly lacking the depth and experience.

Feel free to disagree with me, but your ad hominen attack is...odd, since you know nothing about me.

As for your points, I was, indeed, suggesting we adhere to both national and international law.  That only makes sense, no?  And if we're going to do so, then we need to do so wholly.  My point regarding the Taliban is that you cannot, as much as you might want to, presuppose that they are and always will function as terrorists.  If a member of the Taliban engages in a fire-fight with NATO troops, stands his ground, carries and uses his weapon openly, and is captured...would you not treat him as a PW?  Why not?  Because he isn't wearing a "readily identifiable uniform"?  Okay, THAT I can see as a potentially legitimate point.  However, the mere FACT of his being Taliban does not automatically preclude him being treated as a legitimate PW.  That's a narrow and shallow view, without merit.  On the other hand, if you evaluate each occurrence based on its circumstances, then you are fully in accordance with national and international law.  If you subsequently determine that the individual doesn't merit treatment as a PW based on rational consideration, fine.

Upholding the rule of law is a piece of key terrain for us.
 

dglad

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MCG said:
The TB are insurgents and the label "terrorist" cannot be uniformly applied to their ranks (although it most certainly applies to those who target the civillian population for coercion and acts of violence.  As per the Article 5 of the 3 rd  Geneva Convention "Should any doubt arise whether persons, having committed a belligerent act..." is a prisoner of war "...such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

It may very well be that there is no doubt as to the status of combatants (in regards to PW status or not).  However, a counter insurgency force must also consider the risks associated with a public perception that there could/should be doubt.

Well put.  You've articulated it better than I did, obviously  :-\
 

TCBF

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- The best route would have been - and still may be - to treat all of those captured as POWs.  If they have committed a crime, that does not stop you from prosecuting them as you would a POW who has committed a crime.  The BEST reason for doing this is you get to keep them in POW camps UNTIL THE WAR IS OVER.  None of this letting insurgents out of Gitmo because the court case fell apart, etc.  Cage'em, and let them out when The War Against The West ends, in about two hundred years or so.

- As for 'targetted killings', since we are dealing with an enemy, raids and snatch patrols are just another conventional tactic.  If you define your enemy as a conventional enemy, he does not have to be engaged in combat against you when you kill him.  A soldier doing his business in a WW1 trench latrine, killed by a grenade, would have been 'lawfully' engaged, even though indisposed.  Same-same legal combatants.

- Declare them lawful combatants, POW/kill as per combat, send to trial those who are criminals afterwards.

- Probably a few people in the Beltway wishing this had happenned a few years ago.
 
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