Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Afghanistan:Obama Puts Afghans Before US Troops

Recently President Obama brought in a new general to lead our troops in Afghanistan. Along with the general comes new non-military "solutions". "Solutions" which put our troops at more risk.

Troops told to stop Taliban pursuit if civilians are at risk
By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers – Wed Jul 1

KABUL, Afghanistan — Beginning Thursday, American soldiers in Afghanistan will be under orders to back down when they're chasing Taliban fighters whenever they think that civilians might be at risk.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan , will issue the directive as part of an effort to cut down on civilian casualties, which have enraged the Afghan government and residents. Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters.

The order is consistent with what National Security Adviser James L. Jones told McClatchy in Washington Wednesday was President Barack Obama's concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan .

"General McChrystal has been given instructions when he left here that, in all military operations, that we redouble our efforts to make sure that innocent loss of life is minimized, with zero being the goal," Jones said, noting that, "In one mishap you can create thousands more terrorists than you had before the mishap."

The new order, however, is likely to draw criticism from some U.S. troops, many of whom feel the rules that govern how they fight the war already are too restrictive.

Many soldiers here say they depend on air power and heavy weaponry because there aren't enough ground troops to chase Taliban forces on foot. Jones said no additional ground troops will be sent this year, even though some ground commanders want them.

"Everybody had their day in court, so to speak, before the president made his decision," he said. "We signed off on the strategy, and now we're in the implementation phase."

McChrystal's order will instruct soldiers to "think about what else can we do," said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith , the military's top spokesman in Afghanistan . "We cannot keep going down the path of putting civilians at risk. . . . People want to see changes in behavior."

Airstrikes, which Afghans charge kill innocent people, won't be eliminated, Smith said. "Air power will be as valuable after this directive is issued as it ever was," he said.

The new order, however, will require troops to assume that civilians are present and back off when Taliban fighters escape into villagers' houses, Smith said.

"The assumption must be there are civilians in those residences, and in those instances, he is asking commanders to think of other options in front of them," Smith said.

Those options might include gathering intelligence and regrouping to fight another day; reaching out to a tribal leader or encouraging villagers to help coalition forces track down Taliban forces. In some cases, it could mean letting Taliban escape.

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