New Afghan war commander vows to spare civilians | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 02, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 02, 2010

New Afghan war commander vows to spare civilians

US General David Petraeus, the new Afghan war commander, pledged yesterday to give his forces the firepower to fight the Taliban but insisted that sparing civilian lives remained his priority.
Petraeus admitted nevertheless that troops were unhappy with the rules of engagement, which limit air strikes and artillery and mortar fire to prevent civilian casualties.
"There are concerns among the ranks of some of our troops on the ground that some of the processes have become a bit too bureaucratic," he told reporters after briefing allies at Nato headquarters in Brussels.
Instead, he said he would "look very hard at how the rules and the tactical directive are implemented and to ensure that there is even implementation across all units instead of perhaps some unevenness that has crept in some."
Petraeus had also told US lawmakers that he would "look very hard" at the rules, which were imposed by his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by US President Barack Obama for disparaging remarks he made about administration officials in a magazine article.
Petraeus said he supported the tactics, which are part of a troop surge strategy launched by the United States in a bid to beat back a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
"In a counter-insurgency the human terrain is the decisive terrain and therefore you must do everything humanly possible to protect the population and indeed again to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life," he said.
He said there had been a 50 percent reduction in the loss of civilian lives in the past 12 weeks compared to the same period last year.
Nato forces in Afghanistan said yesterday they had killed at least 31 Taliban fighters and captured a rebel chieftain after a raid on an insurgent hideout in the southern province of Helmand.
Troops called in air support during running gun battles in the province's troubled Baghran district, which erupted after rebels attacked soldiers moving in on the compound with machine guns and rockets, it said.

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