Editor’s note/Programming Alert: anchored by Bret Baier. Former Navy SEAL Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) contributed the following oped after learning about this week’s special "Fox News Reporting: Rising Threats - Shrinking Military." It airs Friday at 10 p.m. And it reairs Sat. at 1 am, ET, Saturday at 8 p.m., 11 p.m., and Sunday at 3 a.m. ET, 9 p.m. and midnight ET.
On January 5, 2016, America lost an elite Special Forces soldier when the White House turned their back on him and his unit. Army Green Beret Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock lost his life, and two others were wounded, when his unit came under Taliban fire in a compound in Marjah, Afghanistan. After the unit was pinned down by enemy combatants, reports say the ground commander requested support from a circling AC-130 gunship.
Due to the Obama administration’s fear of collateral damage, the gunship was initially waived off. The “quick” reaction force (QRF) was also delayed by hours. Although one of his fellow soldiers was able to keep him alive through the night, by the time the QRF and Medevac arrived about twelve hours later, it was too late. SFC McClintock died in the helicopter. The Taliban may have killed SFC McClintock, but the White House failed to save him.
It’s unthinkable that situations like this – where our troops are left defenseless and told not to return fire – happen at all. Even more disturbing, under this administration, these situations are the new reality. Rules of engagement matter. For SFC McClintock, it could have made the difference between life and death.
For the past several years, the White House has been forcing our troops to fight a war with their hands tied behind their backs. Troops are told they must have certainty that an individual is a combatant -- apparently a known Taliban fighter pointing a weapon at them does not qualify.
Our pilots are told to hold their fire until the U.S. gains permission from foreign governments to strike; and even the president’s 2015 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was a list of options he would not consider, rather than a path to victory.
Overly restrictive rules of engagement put our troops in danger and allow our enemy to hide in plain sight.
I served 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL. I commanded some of the finest teams on the face of the planet and led 3,500 operators as the acting Commander of Joint Special Forces in Iraq. Part of the reason we were able to secure Fallujah, Ramadi and other areas is because our troops had the right rules of engagement.
We have seen a level of armchair quarterbacking from this administration that is unprecedented and has led to needless loss of life in Marjah and Benghazi. Micromanagement by the White House will have lasting impacts on our fighting force if it is not reversed quickly.
I’m no longer in the military, but I’m on the front lines in Congress. I’ve continually pressed for Congressional hearings into what happened in Marjah. I’ve grilled senior DoD officials on the impact overly-restrictive rules of engagement can have on the battlefield. This is my new mission.
We owe it to our military men and women, people like SFC McClintock, to change course and make sure our troops have the right tools, resources, force package, and rules of engagement to win -- and win decisively -- on the field of battle. It’s the least we can do.
Ryan Zinke is the 52nd Secretary of the Interior. He is a fifth-generation Montanan, former Congressman, an Eagle Scout, and retired Navy SEAL Commander.