Thursday, January 15, 2009

Afstan: New NATO ROEs

Air strikes received new restrictions last October; now for the ground rules:
NATO said on Wednesday [Jan. 14] it had further tightened its rules of engagement in Afghanistan to cut civilian casualties but accused the Taliban of causing the vast majority of the hundreds of civilian deaths seen last year.

Nearly 700 civilians were killed in 2008 up to October in raids by foreign and Afghan forces, an Afghan rights body said last month, quoting a U.N. estimate.

Raids by foreign forces on homes and mosques are a major source of resentment against the more than 60,000 NATO and U.S.-led coalition troops in the country.

A directive by NATO's commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General David McKiernan, stresses the need for proportionate use of force and for Afghan forces to take the lead in searching Afghan homes and religious sites unless a clear danger is identified.

The December 30 order, only now made public emphasis added], also requires commanders to ensure troops are properly trained for duties such as manning checkpoints to minimise the need to resort to deadly force. It also requires proper investigation of civilian casualties.

"Reducing to a minimum civilian casualties is not only a humanitarian imperative and a human imperative, it is also essential to maintaining public support for the presence of international forces," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

The new directive comes as the U.S. conducts a wide-ranging review of its Afghan strategy and ahead of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new American president next week.

It is the latest tightening of rules of engagement for NATO troops amid growing fears that the West is losing both the military campaign and the support of ordinary Afghans as violence in the country worsens.

In October, NATO ordered troops to pull back from firefights with the Taliban rather than call in air strikes that might kill civilians [emphasis added].

Appathurai blamed the Taliban and allied Islamist insurgents for the vast majority of civilian casualties...
Let's hope civilian good will really is won.


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