Petraeus issues new rules of engagement for the war in Afghanistan

Petraeus revised the Afghanistan rules of engagement, which are guidelines for when and how the US and other NATO troops under his command can shoot to kill. The full directive is classified, according to the International Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), the mission Petraeus leads. But the excerpts from Petraeus’s rules released on the ISAF website place more emphasis on the appropriateness of lethal force than the McChrystal order it replaces.

While emphasizing the logic at the heart of the COIN doctrine (“if we use excessive force or operate to the contrary to our counterinsurgency principles, tactical victories may prove to be strategic setbacks”) and calling for no use of artillery or air power “when civilians are present” it does say there are two exceptions.

What are they? That precise language is redacted “due to operational security; however, they have to with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces,” the website says.

Petraeus also says that troops should not be placed at any more risk than necessary:

“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 touch spot,” Petraeus writes [Emphasis in original]. “This directive, as with the other 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.”

According to the CS Monitor:

The nuanced shift in the rules is no surprise. Some officers privately said that under McChrystal the priority on protecting Afghan civilian lives had become too doctrinaire and that, in practice, officers were reluctant to return fire or use artillery against attacking insurgents because of the presence – or possible presence – of Afghan civilians among them.

“We believe the most pertinent issue in play is uneven application of the [previous] tactical directive,” said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, the operations spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The new guidelines, he said, are “intended to ensure that everyone is on the same page.”

Karzai had publicly praised the measures taken by McChrystal to reduce deaths and injuries of noncombatants, and expressed hope that Petraeus would keep them in place. The new directive did not appear to set off any alarm bells; presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said Karzai had seen it and considered it “basically … not very different” from McChrystal’s approach.

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One Response

  1. […] this summer, after he resigned in June. But McChrystal’s replacement, Army Gen. David Petraeus, issued a tactical directive update last month that appeared to reinforce many of the previous […]

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