Lt. Clint Lorance
The Case

About the Case

In July 2012, while serving as a Rifle Platoon leader in a remote sector of Kandahar Province Afghanistan, 1LT Lorance's platoon embarked on what was seemingly a normal combat patrol. 1LT Lorance's patrol, consisting of 16 US Infantrymen, 5 Afghan National Army Soldiers, and 1 US Interpreter, left their Strong Point early in the morning on 02 July 12 to a neighboring village. The platoon knew this village all too well, as only days before, one of their brothers, a US Soldier, had been shot in the neck in this very village.

Having constant contact with overhead US Army helicopters, it would soon become apparent to 1LT Lorance that the platoon was headed into enemy held territory. Army pilots warned 1LT Lorance over the radio of enemy presence to the North, East and West of the Platoon's position on the ground. LT Lorance confirmed with the pilots a good description of the enemy, and pilots continued to track and provide overhead surveillance for LT Lorance's Infantry platoon who was traveling on foot in the mine-riddled Afghan terrain. The Soldiers were operating in a terrain that the Army had deemed too dangerous to drive vehicles due to the expensive damage to vehicles as a result of mine explosions. In an effort to preserve their vehicles, the Infantrymen walked everywhere on foot, behind hand-held mine-detectors.

As the patrol approached the village, the Afghan National Army Soldiers who were "on point" leading 1LT Lorance's formation raised their weapons and poised to open fire upon 2 individuals who were sitting on a motorcycle at a distance observing the patrol's movement. The individuals met the exact description as what the Army pilots had told 1LT Lorance moments earlier.

Several factors played into the decision making process:

  1. The two individuals were sitting idle at a distance observing the US Patrol. In that area of Afghanistan, it is common practice for Taliban fighters to use what the US calls "spotters". This is a tactic the Taliban uses to communicate with one another. Many times the US is able to intercept the radio transmissions and confirm these are Taliban.
  2. Intelligence reports for the area identified any personnel owning or operating a motorcycle was Taliban, as there were no local population living there. The local population had long since moved out of the area because it had been taken over by the Taliban. Essentially, if they were in this area, they were up to no good. The only other non-taliban actors in this area were farmers who commuted from their homes south of the river to farm the land that had been left abandoned.
  3. July 1, 2012 was the official start of "Afghan in the Lead". The US Generals and chain of command did not specifically delineate what this meant. When asking his Company Commander before taking command of his platoon in late June, LT Lorance sought clarification as to what exactly "Afghan in the Lead" meant. The Company Commander replied with "if the Afghans don't want to patrol, we don't patrol". This guidance was vague. US Generals should have very clearly specified the modification, if any, to the current rules of engagement. Many platoons simply stopped patrolling, which set the stage for the Taliban to retake the territory. When the US is absent, there is a power vacuum. LT Lorance knew that in order to protect his men, his platoon must continue to patrol often. Many US officers' response was just to let the Afghan Soldierss do what they want, after all, it is their country. Lorance was not of this belief. Lorance believes that if any unit or joint-patrol that a US participates in must abide by US laws. Essentially, Lorance was not comfortable letting the poorly trained Afghan Soldiers call the shots.

Having only seconds to react, 1LT Lorance made the decision to protect his troops while preserving local human life and preventing possible collateral damage by ordering the Afghan Army soldiers to stand down. The poorly trained Afghan Soldiers are trigger-happy and are at best very poor marksmen. In 1LT Lorance's decision making process, it was either let the Afghan Soldiers open up a barrage of gunfire and rocket fire onto the two individuals and potentially create unacceptable levels of collateral damage, or to engage the target with better trained US marksmen.

With seconds to act, 1LT Lorance decided that collateral damage was unacceptable . 1LT Lorance could not see what was behind a nearby building, and was afraid there were women and children that may be hit by a barrage of Afghan Army gunfire. 1LT Lorance ordered all of his men to hold their fire-to include the Afghan Army Soldiers, 1LT Lorance then ordered his Soldier who was standing guard in an overwatch position from the road on a US Gun Truck to fire two long-range precision shots, eliminating the threat.

The patrol remained under enemy surveillance as the Soldiers moved through the village. US Intelligence intercepted enemy radio signals talking about the position of the patrol and planning an ambush. Moments later, Lorance's men engaged and killed two confirmed Taliban fighters who were planning the ambush. Simultaneously, Lorance's men in a separate location intercepted a Taliban fighter who was attempting to flee the village on a motorcycle. Another suspected Taliban fighter was injured in the engagement was intercepted by the Afghan Army Soldiers. This man was attempting to flee the village and had been shot in the army by Lorance's men. 1LT Lorance ordered his Combat Medic to immediately stabilize the man and bring the man back to base with the patrol for further medical treatment and remain on Lorance's base pending the investigation.

Upon return to base, Lorance ordered both of the captured men be tested for gunshot residue on their hands. Both men tested positive, confirming Lorance's suspicions that the men had fired weapons recently. Lorance also ordered the men entered biometrically into the platoon's computer to check for past criminal history. Then men both gave a "John Doe" name when asked, negating the computer check.

1LT Lorance then ordered that both men be physically separated, put into a shaded area, and be given food and water. Both men refused food, but drank water. When the Afghan Police arrived and asked Lorance for permission to interrogate the prisoners, Lorance denied the Police access to the prisoners and declared them under US custody, as such, they would be treated in accordance with US Army laws for treatment of prisoners. These laws mandate that the US personnel must protect anyone in their custody from interrogation or unjust treatment. 1LT Lorance instructed his men to guard the prisoners and not talk to them. 2-3 hours later, the prisoners were transported to the Detainee processing facility at the Brigade Headquarters.

Even though both men tested positive for gunshot residue and were acting suspiciously and acted exactly as all other Taliban do in the area, Lorance's higher HQ assumed they were innocent due to political reasons. The two men Lorance's platoon killed early on in the patrol turned out to not be confirmed enemy fighters. The Army assumed Lorance guilty of random acts of murder, fired him from being a platoon leader, took his weapon away--in a combat zone-- and moved him to headquarters to assume administrative duties while awaiting the investigation

The members of Lorance's platoon have since made efforts to protect themselves by testifying against Lorance. 1LT Lorance is the only person in this incident to face any charges.

Decide for yourself. We send our Soldiers to fight a war where civilians and enemy look alike. They are walking through fields of land mines designed specifically not to kill but to maim and mutilate. How is the US Government going to turn around and accuse these brave soldiers of murder. What would you do in this situation?