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New NATO Military Directive Aims to Avoid Afghan Civilian Casualties

The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has issued a new directive to troops, repeating his predecessor's emphasis on the need to avoid civilian casualties.

In the directive issued Wednesday, General David Petraeus said international forces in Afghanistan must balance their pursuit of the enemy with protecting innocent civilian life and their fellow service members.

The new rules say before using force, commanders must make sure no civilians are present, except when acting in self-defense.

General Petraeus also emphasizes the need to partner with Afghan forces at all times. He said the presence of Afghan troops will help reduce civilian casualties that often result from a misunderstanding of local customs and behaviors.

There have been complaints from troops that restrictions put in place by former commander, General Stanley McChrystal, were putting them in danger.

Meanwhile, NATO says despite a new code of conduct issued by the Taliban, insurgents continue to harm innocent Afghan civilians.

In a statement Wednesday, the coalition said the new directive released by Taliban commander Mullah Omar late last month called for insurgents to avoid harming civilians as long as they do not side with the Afghan government or NATO forces.

But NATO says in the few days following the new code of conduct's release, Taliban insurgents killed 43 Afghan civilians and wounded 65 others.

NATO says many of the casualties, including five children killed in Kandahar province Monday, were the victims of suicide attacks.