Now that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has departed the scene, Gen. David Petraeus has assumed command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and in a tactical document released Sunday he revisited one of his predecessor’s guidelines for carrying out airstrikes and zeroed in on a sensitive topic that dogged McChrystal during his tenure: civilian casualties. —KA
But for all the emphasis on winning hearts and minds, Petraeus also signalled a new aggression in the fight against the Taliban, ordering troops to “pursue the enemy relentlessly”.
While McChrystal’s rules of engagement have not been altered, a rule on the use of air strikes against buildings has been clarified after a review revealed that many junior officers applied it too rigidly.
It requires extreme care to be used when air strikes or artillery fire are ordered on buildings where insurgents are fighting in order to avoid destroying houses or killing civilians who might be sheltering there. The clarification seeks to dispel the belief of lower-level commanders that such strikes on abandoned homes are completely forbidden.