Claim: U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been ordered to carry weapons with no bullets.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, January 2014]
Origins: This item circulated on the Internet in January 2014 claiming that the Obama administration had ordered U.S. troops in Afghanistan to carry weapons containing no ammunition appears to have originated with a since-removed article published on the U.S. Report web site (not to be confused with the venerable U.S. News & World Report news magazine) reporting that:
Some soldiers are being ordered to conduct patrols without a round chambered in their weapons, The US Report has learned from an anonymous source at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. Our source was unsure if the order came from his unit or if it affected other units.
On war correspondent Michael Yon's Facebook page, commenters stated that this is a common practice in Iraq, while others said that it is occurring in Afghanistan as well. According to military protocol, "Amber" status requires weapons to have a loaded magazine, but the safety on and no round chambered.
"The idea that any combat unit would conduct any operation, including patrolling and even manning a security post — in which direct action may-or-may not take place — and not having weapons loaded, borders on being criminally negligent in my opinion," says Lt. Col. W. Thomas Smith Jr., a recognized expert on terrorism and military/national defense issues. "This is nothing more than infusing politically correct restrictions into already overly restrictive rules of engagement. And this PC nonsense is going to get people killed."
- It was originally published in May 2010, so it's not an account of a recent change in policy or an implementation of new rules.
- It was based on an information provided by a single, anonymous source.
- Describing what it reports as meaning that U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have been required to "carry weapons with no bullets" is misleading and inaccurate. The article describes troops carrying weapons that are in fact loaded (i.e., have full magazines) but don't have a round
chambered — asoldier carrying such a weapon would therefore need to expend a small amount of time (~1 second) chambering the first round prior to firing, but that is a vastly different situation from carrying a weapon with no bullets that cannot be utilized until an ammunition magazine is snapped into place.
A senior military official [said] that the order "could save precious seconds" in responding to a so-called "green-on-blue"
The U.S. military-wide order was issued after six Marines were killed by members of the Afghan forces in two separate attacks last week. Two U.S. service members and an Afghan police officer were also killed [a few days ago] by a newly recruited Afghan village police officer, according to officials.
U.S. military officials [said] that the new order did not mean personnel were required to keep a round in the chamber.
The Army has also ordered that at any gathering of U.S. military and armed Afghan security at least one soldier will be designated as a "guardian angel" to stand in a protected space with his weapon loaded to respond immediately to any threat against his fellow soldiers.
A senior military official [said] that while these two measures could provide a rapid response to any attack, the reality was that as long as U.S. forces are working side-by-side with armed Afghans, any one of them "could always get the drop on you."