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Petraeus issues new rules on use of force

A month after taking charge in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus on Wednesday issued an updated tactical directive governing the use of force by U.S. and NATO troops, urging them to "redouble" their efforts to protect Afghan civilians.

The updated directive doesn't appear to differ much from one issued in July 2009 by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, Petraeus's predecessor. Many troops had complained that McChrystal's emphasis on reducing civilian casualties was tying their hands when confronting Taliban fighters holed up in people's houses and public places.

Although Petraeus had promised to review the directive, he concluded that minimizing civilian casualties remains the crux of the counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan. At the same time, he emphasized that the guidelines do not prevent commanders from engaging in self-defense "where it is determined no other options are available to effectively counter the threat."

See the jump for a press release with unclassified excerpts.

Headquarters
International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan
2010-08-CA-004

KABUL, Afghanistan (Aug. 4) - International Security Assistance Force Commander, General David Petraeus has issued his updated Tactical Directive, providing guidance and intent for the use of force by ISAF and USFOR-A units operating in Afghanistan.

The Tactical Directive reinforces the concept of "disciplined use of force" in our partnership with Afghan Security Forces to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan.

The updated directive is classified; unclassified portions of the document are included below.

"This directive applies to all ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) forces operating under operational or tactical control ... Subordinate commanders are not authorized to further restrict this guidance without my approval.

Our counterinsurgency strategy is achieving progress in the face of tough enemies and a number of other challenges. Concentrating our efforts on protecting the population is having a significant effect. We have increased security in some key areas, and we have reduced the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces.

The Afghan population is, in a number of areas, increasingly supportive of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and of coalition forces. We have also seen support for the insurgency decrease in various areas as the number of insurgent-caused civilian casualties has risen dramatically. We must build on this momentum.

This effort is a contest of wills. Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people. In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners.

We must continue - indeed, redouble - our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum. Every Afghan civilian death diminishes our cause. If we use excessive force or operate contrary to our counterinsurgency principles, tactical victories may prove to be strategic setbacks.

We must never forget that the center of gravity in this struggle is the Afghan people; it is they who will ultimately determine the future of Afghanistan ...

Prior to the use of fires, the commander approving the strike must determine that no civilians are present. If unable to assess the risk of civilian presence, fires are prohibited, except under of the following two conditions (specific conditions deleted due to operational security; however, they have to do with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces).

(NOTE) This directive, as with the previous version, does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options are available to effectively counter the threat.

... Protecting the Afghan people does require killing, capturing, or turning the insurgents. Indeed, as I noted earlier, we must pursue the Taliban tenaciously. But we must fight with great discipline and tactical patience.

We must balance our pursuit of the enemy with our efforts to minimize loss of innocent civilian life, and with our obligation to protect our troops. Our forces have been striving to do that, and we will continue to do so.

In so doing, however, we must remember that it is a moral imperative both to protect Afghan civilians and to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom we are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder when they are in a tough spot.

We must be consistent throughout the force in our application of this directive and our rules of engagement. All commanders must reinforce the right and obligation of self-defense of coalition forces, of our Afghan partners, and of others as authorized by the rules of engagement.

We must train our forces to know and understand the rules of engagement and the intent of the tactical directive. We must give our troopers the confidence to take all necessary actions when it matters most, while understanding the strategic consequences of civilian casualties. Indeed, I expect our troopers to exert their best judgment according to the situation on the ground. Beyond that, every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine has my full support as we take the fight to the enemy.

... Partnering is how we operate. Some civilian casualties result from a misunderstanding or ignorance of local customs and behaviors. No individuals are more attuned to the Afghan culture than our Afghan partners. Accordingly, it is essential that all operations be partnered with an ANSF unit and that our Afghan partners be part of the planning and execution phases. Their presence will ensure greater situational awareness. It will also serve to alleviate anxiety on the part of the local population and build confidence in Afghan security forces.

I expect every operation and patrol to be partnered. If there are operational reasons why partnership is not possible for a particular operation, the CONOP approval authority must be informed ...

Partnership is an essential aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy. It is also an indispensible element of the transition of security responsibility to ANSF.

Again, we need to build on the momentum we are achieving. I expect every trooper and commander to use force judiciously, especially in situations where civilians may be present. At the same time, we must employ all assets to ensure our troopers' safety, keeping in mind the importance of protecting the Afghan people as we do.

This is a critical challenge at a critical time; but we must and will succeed. I expect that everyone under my command, operational and tactical, will not only adhere to the letter of this directive, but - more importantly - to its intent.

Strategic and operational commanders cannot anticipate every engagement. We have no desire to undermine the judgment of tactical commanders. However, that judgment should always be guided by my intent. Take the fight to the enemy. And protect the Afghan people and help our Afghan partners defeat the insurgency."

The directive was issued on August 1, 2010, replacing the July 1, 2009 version.

By Craig Whitlock  | August 4, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
 
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Comments

"We must continue - indeed, redouble - our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum. Every Afghan civilian death diminishes our cause. If we use excessive force or operate contrary to our counterinsurgency principles, tactical victories may prove to be strategic setbacks."

Unfortunately in war, you may have to actually attack and kill the enemy and his bases of support. Apparently they no longer teach this at US War Colleges. The US has absolutely no idea how to wage counter-insurgency in spite of the trillions of dollars spent on the US Armed Forces since the end of the Vietnam War. Maybe we can wish the enemy out of existence?

Posted by: garrafa10 | August 4, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

How many Afghan civilians can be expected to be killed if we pull out and the Taliban takes over? If it is a large number, than the Afghan population should be willing to accept a few casualties if it enable coalition forces to kill Taliban.

Afgahns seem more concerned about us killing a few of them now, then the Taliban killing a lot of them later.

And if Afghan fighters are so ferocious that no invader can whip them, why are they so incompetent when it comes to fighting the Taliban?

Could it be we are trying to get cooperation from Taliban supporters?

Posted by: ad9inaz | August 4, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

repeat of nam. the spineless,criminal politicians put our forces in harms way again. GET OUT of these crapholes and let them continue murdering their own,as usual

Posted by: pofinpa | August 4, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

What ever happened to "Kill 'em all and let God sort it out"? It worked for us in Vietnam.

Posted by: newrussianguy | August 4, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

No wonder our soldiers are killing themselves. There are no rules of engagement for suicide.

There isn't much of a difference.

Posted by: Nessus | August 4, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

US soldier suicide rates are not part of the statistics concerning rules of engagement, but Afgan civiians are.

This goes to prove that our soldiers don't mean nothing when compared to Afgan numbers.

Petraeus doesn't give a crap about the average soldier. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Nessus

Posted by: Nessus | August 4, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Only a US General could willingly follow and issue such paradox and ridiculous rules. THE SOLDIER IS EXPENDABLE - how long will you Americans allow this folly to carry on?!
WIN THE WAR, no matter what and thereafter You will win the hearts and minds of the people.
Fight a proper War: First create a 50 mile no-mans zone between Pakistan and Afghanistan then bomb anything that moves throught the zone without specifice permission and electronic detection device.
Then clean up the mess inside Afghanistan that you created by leaving for the Iraaq Folly.
And the NATO allies are dumm enough to listen and follow your lead.
July 2011 cannot come soon enough for our Canadian Troops, that saved your bacon in the south from 2005 - 2010, to come home.
A LOST CAUSE and YOU WILL BE BLAMED FOR THE FAILURE and maybe you should be.
GOOD LUCK to your soldiers.

Posted by: Star71 | August 5, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

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