News / Asia

Petraeus Issues Order To Protect His Troops and Afghan Civilians

General David Petraeus (file photo)
General David Petraeus (file photo)
Al Pessin

The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, has issued his first tactical directive to the nearly 150,000 troops under his command, designed in part to address concerns expressed by some troops that previous orders made it too difficult for them to defend themselves.  

General Petraeus' directive orders his troops not to use force unless they are sure no Afghan civilians will be harmed, except in two circumstances.  The exact wording of that part of the directive has been kept secret.  But a release from the NATO command says the only situations in which Afghan civilians can be put at risk are those "where it is determined no other options are available" to protect international or Afghan troops

Aside from such instances, the troops are required to make the protection of Afghan civilians their top priority.  

Some troops had complained that the previous directive, issued a year ago by General Petraeus' predecessor, excessively restricted their ability to defend themselves.  The NATO military spokesman in Kabul, German Brigadier General Josef Blotz, says the document makes clear that is not the case.

"General Petraeus has made it quite clear that nothing is intended to hinder an individual's right to self defense," said General Blotz.

General Petraeus is a leader of the counterinsurgency movement in the U.S. military, which emphasizes protecting the local population.  But he told his Senate confirmation hearing in June he also recognizes it is important for the troops to be able to protect themselves.

"I see it as a moral imperative to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] troopers are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder," said General Petraeus. "Those on the ground must have all the support they need when they are in a tough situation."

Some military officials concluded that local commanders had interpreted the previous directive too tightly, so General Petraeus says in his order that "subordinate commanders are not authorized to further restrict this guidance" without his approval.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Dubik says that is important.

"Between the lines, he is seeking to achieve more alignment up and down the chain of command so that there's more clarity than perhaps in the recent months," said James Dubik. "You don't want a restriction at his level then to be more restricted at the next level below him, and then restricted even more the next level down, and by the time you get to the poor platoon and squad level, they can't shoot at anything.  So wisely he said, 'look, these are the restrictions that all of us will live by.'"

The Petraeus document also tells the troops to be "relentless" in pursuing the Taliban and related groups, but says "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."  Petraeus says it is a "moral imperative" both to protect the civilians and to protect the troops.

General Dubik says those sometimes conflicting goals put a lot of pressure on ordinary soldiers and young officers in small units, which often operate in difficult conditions far from headquarters.  

"We ask and demand decisions by sergeants, lieutenants and captains in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, every day that are very complex, that require refined judgment and a balancing of competing priorities," he said. "This is something that I think is completely appropriate to push down."

In the directive, General Petraeus says he expects the troops "to exert their best judgment according to the situation on the ground," and pledges to support them when they do.  

Petraeus also says all operations must involve Afghan forces, in part to increase the international troops' understanding of the local situation.  He also tells the troops the new approach President Barack Obama announced in December is already showing results and starting to build momentum by beginning to reduce public support for the insurgency.  He describes the war as "a contest of wills," and tells the troops "every Afghan civilian death diminishes our cause."  

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid