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During operations on urban terrain, commanders can expect to encounter restrictions on their use of firepower. Basic doctrinal principles remain the same, but the tactics, techniques, and procedures may have to be modified to stay within established rules of engagement (ROE) and to avoid unnecessary collateral damage.


At the company level and below, conditions of urban combat may change quickly. Soldiers conducting the operations often cannot distinguish what are high-intensity or precision conditions. The specific guidance that will assist them in performing their mission, while simultaneously avoiding civilian casualties and collateral damage, will be the ROE. Small-unit leaders will be responsible for enforcing the ROE because the urban battle is conducted at small-unit level. (Refer to Chapter 1 for detailed information concerning these terms.)


The unified commander issues the ROE for tactical forces. The ROE are based on the commander's analysis of his guidance from the National Command Authority (NCA), the mission that he has been given, the existing threat, the laws of land warfare, and any host nation or third-world country constraints on US forces. Printed ROE will normally be distributed through command channels and delivered to units in sufficient quantities for each soldier to have a copy. Units will always be faced with adhering to ROE of some kind. ROE have a significant impact on how missions are executed during UO. They must provide clear guidance to soldiers about when and how to employ force to accomplish the mission and to defend themselves.

a. Political Concerns. The political concerns used while developing the ROE may appear to conflict with the physical security needs of units. Politically driven constraints must be weighed against the potential risks to mission accomplishment and to the force itself. ROE must be practical, realistic, understandable, and enforceable. If soldiers do not believe that they can survive under the ROE, the rules will be very difficult to enforce. Commanders can affect the ROE by suggesting changes or requesting clarification or modifications. Like the mission, ROE must be tailored to the day-to-day changes in the conditions and threats that face the US forces.

b. Situation Dependent. Whatever the situation that has called for restricted ROE, Infantry units will probably operate in a dangerous, yet highly constrained, environment. This demands a high degree of patience, training, and dedication on the part of the soldiers and leaders. An example of ROE used during Operation Just Cause is shown in Table A-1. The example is not intended as a sole-source document for developing ROE. It is to be used as an example of how political considerations during a recent mission were translated by the commander into specific ROE.

(1) The ROE is much more restrictive under certain conditions of UO than under others. For example, a particular mission might require ROE that limit the use of indirect fire weapons. On the other hand, a mission to clear a building may require ROE that authorize force to clear rooms, and include authoritative guidance concerning measures to protect noncombatants, breach obstacles, and react to snipers.

(2) One of the most significant issues of UO is collateral damage. Collateral damage is unintended and undesirable civilian personnel injuries or material damage adjacent to a target produced by the effects of friendly weapons. ROE will provide guidance concerning how to minimize collateral damage. For example, ROE may require use of nonlethal capabilities to the maximum extent possible before use of lethal weapons and munitions, or may restrict use of indirect fire weapons. The ROE will establish when certain types of weapons and munitions can be used (Table A-1).

(3) A mission can transition quickly from stability or support to offense or defense. This transition might be caused by threat actions or the actions of noncombatants. Commanders must be prepared to react to this situation and request changes in the ROE when necessary.

(4) ROE differentiate between the use of force for self-defense and for mission accomplishment. Commanders always retain the inherent authority and obligation to use necessary and proportional force for unit and individual self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent.

q. Treat all civilians and their property with respect and dignity. Before using privately owned property, check to see if any publicly owned property can substitute. No requisitioning of civilian property without permission of a company-level commander and without giving a receipt. If an ordering officer can contract for the property, then do not requisition it. No looting. Do not kick down doors unless necessary. Do not sleep in their houses. If you must sleep in privately owned buildings, have an ordering officer contract for it.

r. Treat all prisoners humanely and with respect and dignity.

s. Annex R to the OPLAN provides more detail. Conflicts between this card and the OPLAN should be resolved in favor of the OPLAN.


a. Armed force is the last resort.

b. When possible, the enemy will be warned first and allowed to surrender.

c. Armed civilians will be engaged only in self-defense.

d. Civilian aircraft will not be engaged without approval from above division level unless it is in self-defense.

e. Avoid harming civilians unless necessary to save US lives. If possible, try to arrange for the evacuation of civilians prior to any US attack.

f. If civilians are in the area, do not use artillery, mortars, armed helicopters, AC-130s, tube- or rocket-launched weapons, or M551 main guns against known or suspected targets without the permission of a ground maneuver commander, LTC or higher (for any of these weapons).

g. If civilians are in the area, control all air attacks by FAC or FO.

h. If civilians are in the area, close air support (CAS), white phosphorus, and incendiary weapons are prohibited without approval from above division level.

i. If civilians are in the area, do not shoot except at known enemy locations.

j. If civilians are not in the area, you can shoot at suspected enemy locations.

k. Public works such as power stations, water treatment plants, dams, or other utilities may not be engaged without approval from above division level.

l. Hospitals, churches, shrines, schools, museums, and any other historical or cultural site will not be engaged except in self-defense.

m. All indirect fire and air attacks must be observed.

n. Pilots must be briefed for each mission on the location of civilians and friendly forces.

o. No booby traps. No mines except as approved by division commander. No riot control agents except with approval from above division level.

p. Avoid harming civilian property unless necessary to save US lives.

DISTRIBUTION: 1 per trooper deployed to include all ranks.




a. Senior person in charge may order warning shots.

b. Use minimum force but not deadly force to detain looters.

c. Defend Panamanian (and other) lives with minimum force including deadly force when necessary.


a. Mark all perimeter barriers, wires, and limits. Erect warning signs.

b. Establish second positions to hastily block those fleeing.

c. Senior person in charge may order warning shots to deter breach.

d. Control exfiltrating civilians with minimum force necessary.

e. Use force necessary to disarm exfiltrating military and paramilitary.

f. Attack to disable, not destroy, all vehicles attempting to breach or flee.

g. Vehicle that returns or initiates fire is hostile. Fire to destroy hostile force.

h. Vehicle that persists in breach attempt is presumed hostile. Fire to destroy hostile force.

i. Vehicle that persists in flight after a blocking attempt IAW instruction 2b is presumed hostile. Fire to destroy hostile force.


a. Warn all occupants to exit.

b. Senior person in charge may order warning shots to induce occupants to exit.

c. Do not attack hospitals, churches, shrines, or schools, museums, and any historical or cultural sites except in self-defense.

d. Respect and minimize damage to private property.

e. Use minimum force necessary to control the situation and to ensure the area is free of hostile force.

Table A-1. Example of Operation Just Cause ROE


Nonlethal capabilities are weapon systems, munitions, and equipment required to improve the operational requirement for an enhanced capability to apply nonlethal force. The components are explicitly designed and primarily employed to incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing fatalities or permanent injury to intended targets and collateral damage to property and the environment. Nonlethal capabilities are not guaranteed to be totally nonlethal; the use of certain capabilities under certain circumstances may, in fact, render some fatalities. The use of the term "nonlethal" is not intended to be misleading, but to covey the intention to be able to achieve military objectives while greatly reducing fatalities.

a. Characteristics. Unlike weapons that permanently destroy targets through blast fragmentation or penetration, nonlethal capabilities have one, or both, of the following characteristics:

(1) They use means other than physical destruction to prevent the target from functioning.

(2) They have relatively reversible effects. Even if they injure humans, the injured usually recover.

b. Examples. The Infantry has had some nonlethal capabilities for years. Other weapons represent new developing technology. Examples of nonlethal capabilities are:

  • Riot control agents (RCA) such as CS (see Appendix F).

  • Incapacitating sprays such as Mace and pepper spray.

  • Kinetic stun projectiles such as rubber bullets, wooden baton rounds, and beanbag or ringfoil grenades.

  • Rigid, sticky, or disorienting foams.

  • Super-lubricants.

  • Stun grenades.

  • Acoustic distraction devices.

c. Reasons for Using Nonlethal Capabilities. Increased attention is being given to the use of nonlethal capabilities for the following reasons:

  • Growing conviction about their potential military utility.

  • Political sensitivity.

  • New constraints imposed by arms control.

  • Increasing interest by US allies and outside organizations concerned with international security.

  • Recent advances in enabling technologies related to nonlethal capabilities.

  • Emerging missions needing better nonlethal solutions such as crowd control, stability operations, and support operations in urban areas.

d. Options. Nonlethal capabilities provide commanders with multiple options ranging from not using military force at all through the use of lethal force. Nonlethal capabilities may be more appropriate for some missions than lethal weapons. Nonlethal capabilities can provide a more humane, discriminate, and reversible means of employing military force, with more precisely tailored and focused effects.

e. Constraints. Unless constrained by orders from higher headquarters, commanders are not obligated in any way to use only nonlethal capabilities, or to try nonlethal capabilities before resorting to more lethal means, in any military operation. The ROE and guidance from higher headquarters will determine appropriate use of nonlethal capabilities. Although US forces may wish to avoid casualties, many situations require overwhelming lethal force as the most effective and efficient means to accomplish the mission. In the final result, a swift victory by overwhelming force may actually involve fewer casualties on both sides.

f. Troop Safety. However the commander chooses to use nonlethal force, its use should be in a manner that minimizes additional risks to friendly forces. The right to use lethal force for self-defense against a deadly threat is unaffected by any earlier choice of nonlethal capabilities to achieve mission objectives.

g. The Nonlethal Capability Set. The nonlethal capability set (NLCS) is a systems approach containing weapon systems, munitions, and equipment required to improve the operational requirement for an enhanced capability to apply nonlethal force. Battalion NCLS were placed in contingency stocks in September 2000, and will be issued to units on an as needed basis. The NLCS contains:

  • Individual Protection: Provides the individual ballistic and non-ballistic protective equipment that safeguards the soldier.

  • Individual Enhancement: Provides the equipment that compliments individual protection and enhances the soldier's capability.

  • Mission Enhancement: Provides the equipment that supports the commander in the accomplishment of the mission.

  • Munitions: Provides the munitions that enable the accomplishment of the mission in compliance with current policy and guidance for the application of nonlethal force.

  • Training: Provides the organization with the equipment that will assist in the training for operations involving the use of nonlethal force.

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