Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Announcing new Afghanistan orders makes no sense

"The U.S. commander in Afghanistan will soon order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding among villagers, an official said Monday, announcing one of the strongest measures yet to protect Afghan civilians. The most contentious civilian fatality cases in recent years occurred during battles in Afghan villages when U.S. airstrikes aimed at militants also killed civilians. . . . Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his measure of effectiveness will be the "number of Afghans shielded from violence" — not the number of militants killed. McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger, said Rear Adm. Greg Smith, a U.S. military spokesman. "But if there is a compound they're taking fire from and they can remove themselves from the area safely, without any undue danger to the forces, then that's the option they should take," Smith said. . . . McChrystal's orders will be more precise and have stronger language ordering forces to break off from battles, Smith said. . . . Still, she said the policy has potential drawbacks, specifically that civilian homes will be the perfect place for insurgents to seek cover."


I don't oppose the policy. We must avoid all unnecessary civilian casualties. Unless absolutely necessary, we must never take the battle into civilian homes and villages.

But, is it wise to tell the bad guys where and when we will pursue or retreat? This announcement appears to place public relations requirements above troop safety.

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