Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thoughts on This?

Rules of Engagement Questioned

Associated Press February 01, 2007

DEL RIO, Texas - A recent standoff between National Guardsmen and heavily armed outlaws along the U.S.-Mexico border has rattled some troops and raised questions about the rules of engagement for Soldiers who were supposed to be playing a backup role.

Six to eight gunmen - possibly heading for Mexico with drug money - approached a group of National Guard troops at an observation post Jan. 3 on the U.S. side of the Arizona-Mexico border. No one fired a shot, and the confrontation ended when the troops retreated to contact the U.S. Border Patrol. The gunmen fled into Mexico.

But the incident made some National Guard commanders nervous enough to move up training dates for handling hostage situations. And some lawmakers have questioned why the rules prohibit the Soldiers from opening fire unless they are fired upon.

"Why would this be allowed to happen?" Republican Arizona state Representative Warde Nichols said. "Why do we have National Guard running from illegals on the border?"

The standoff was the first known armed encounter between National Guard troops and civilians since U.S. President George W. Bush ordered about 6,000 Soldiers to the border in May to support the Border Patrol and local law enforcement. The guard was supposed to be the "eyes and ears" for other agencies and was not given authority to arrest or detain illegal immigrants.

Until the rules of engagement are changed, the troops are little more than "window dressing ... to say we are doing something about border security," Nichols said.

The men who confronted the Soldiers were armed with automatic weapons when they saw the Soldiers, split into two groups and appeared to be trying to surround them, authorities said. Before the Guardsmen retreated, one gunman came within 35 feet of the Soldiers, according to a National Guard report. The outlaws' nationality was unclear.

Republican Arizona state Rep. Jerry Weiers said the rules of engagement put Soldiers in a tough position.

Several Soldiers said the Arizona confrontation worried them.
First Lt. Wayne Lee, a spokesman for the New Mexico National Guard, said Soldiers "are not supposed to get into a firefight. It's not the Sunni Triangle."


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