McChrystal’s Rules Helped Reduce Attacks, Study Says

Having taken over command of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus is thinking of easing restrictions imposed by his predecessor on when and how American troops can attack suspected enemy fighters. But a new, independent study from the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finds that the restraints put in place by the recently fired General Stanley McChrystal actually resulted in a decrease in insurgent attacks.

The 69-page NBER study analyzed 4,000 civilian casualties and 25,000  clashes between U.S.-led forces and insurgents over the 15 months endingApril 1. The pattern it detected was that civilian casualties caused  by U.S. and NATO actions “are associated with a substantively and  statistically large increase in attacks” by the Taliban and other Afghan militants. The average civilian-casualty event caused by the International Security Assistance  Force (ISAF) killed or wounded two Afghans.

According to the analysis, districts in which such an episode occurred averaged six more violent clashes over the following six weeks than did otherwise similar areas that were spared civilian casualties. “The data are consistent with the claim that civilian casualties are affecting future violence through increased recruitment into insurgent groups after a civilian-casualty incident,” the Air Force–funded report says. “Local exposure to violence from ISAF appears to be the primary driver of this effect.”

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