On a cool autumn day just about one year ago, Sgt. Troy Anderson, a Green Beret sniper, had a terrorist in his sights near the Afghan border with Pakistan. The man, Nawab Buntangyar, was on a ten most wanted list for training and outfitting suicide bombers who targeted civilians. The Taliban terrorist was an elusive guy, but had been lured out of his home by Afghans friendly to NATO forces. On the order of Green Beret Captain Dave Staffel, Sgt. Anderson shot Buntangyar dead.
And so began a nightmare for the two Special Forces soldiers that never should have happened. The Afghans involved reported the killing to their government and the United States Army was asked to investigate. Two separate probes cleared the Green Berets of any wrongdoing. But that wasn't enough for Lt. General Francis Kearney, who ordered the soldiers back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where they faced possible court-martial.
At that point, I got involved and reported the story on my television program. The New York Times reported it as well. No other national media touched it.
Since the friendly-fire killing of Sgt. Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, American authorities have been jumpy. The pro-U.S. Kharzi government usually plays to its fundamentalist Muslim base in any controversy, demanding investigations into the conduct of Western forces for show. It's all about public relations.
Thus, seemingly employing a bizarre political correctness, General Kearney prolonged the ordeal of the two Green Berets when he shouldn't have. It was a political play, pure and simple.
After months of agony and uncertainty, Major General Thomas Csrnko, commander of Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg, exonerated Captain Staffel and Sgt. Anderson of any wrongdoing. Said the General: "[We] take all credible allegations of misconduct seriously."
Great. Only one problem: There were no credible allegations of misconduct. According to investigators, the Green Berets did their duty. They killed a known terrorist on the battlefield.
General Kearney, feeling the media heat after the acquittal, issued his own statement: "[The investigation] demonstrates the effectiveness of the Military Justice System."
To that I say, bull.
Most troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will tell you the rules of engagement are dangerous and stupid. The terrorists can and will do anything, including hiding behind children to shoot at Americans. But U.S. troops have to restrain themselves at nearly every turn because some opportunistic officers and a corrupt American press are ready to turn every mistake into a scandal.
Remember, the New York Times did 50 front page stories about Abu Ghraib. Interestingly, after its initial report on the Green Berets, the Times did not mention their acquittal. Nice.
Mark Waple, the attorney for Captain Staffel, said this: "General Kearney presumed the guilt of his soldiers rather than their innocence. To accuse these men was an abuse of command authority, unlawful, and morally and ethically wrong."
I totally agree with the counselor. We Americans are asking our military to protect us from vicious terrorists who murder at will. But often we are not willing to give these brave men and women the benefit of the doubt. There is no way the USA will win the war on terror if this nonsense continues.
Despite his ordeal, Captain Dave Staffel is returning to the battlefield. Sgt. Anderson says he will retire. Both of these men should be promoted and honored publicly. The Army owes them.
And one more thing—enough is enough with this PC nonsense. Fight to win, or get out.