Afghanistan — Tactical Directive Stresses Coalition, Afghan Partnership

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2010 — All patrols and oper­a­tions in Afghanistan must include Afghan secu­ri­ty forces part­ners, accord­ing to an updat­ed tac­ti­cal direc­tive from the com­man­der of coali­tion and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The direc­tive from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus applies to all mem­bers of the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force.

Part­ner­ing is key in many areas, Petraeus said in the direc­tive, not­ing that Afghan troops and police are more sen­si­tive to local nuances than coali­tion forces. Pri­or to the updat­ed direc­tive, rough­ly 85 per­cent of tac­ti­cal oper­a­tions and all spe­cial oper­a­tions had been con­duct­ed in part­ner­ship with Afghan forces, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials said.

“Some civil­ian casu­al­ties result from a mis­un­der­stand­ing or igno­rance of local cus­toms and behav­iors,” he said. “No indi­vid­u­als are more attuned to the Afghan cul­ture than our Afghan part­ners.” Accord­ing­ly, he added, part­ner­ship with Afghan forces is essen­tial in all oper­a­tions, and Afghan part­ners must be part of the plan­ning and exe­cu­tion phas­es.

Work­ing in part­ner­ship with coali­tion forces, Petraeus said, will build Afghan forces’ exper­tise to han­dle mis­sions on their own, and their pres­ence should soothe Afghan civil­ians’ anx­i­eties and build their con­fi­dence in Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

The direc­tive requires com­man­ders approv­ing strikes to deter­mine that no civil­ians are present, and it pro­hibits strikes if that deter­mi­na­tion isn’t pos­si­ble unless ISAF or Afghan forces are at risk oth­er­wise. A clas­si­fied por­tion of the direc­tive out­lines spe­cif­ic con­di­tions for that pro­vi­sion, offi­cials said.

Offi­cials empha­sized that the updat­ed tac­ti­cal direc­tive does not pre­vent com­man­ders from pro­tect­ing the lives of their men and women as a mat­ter of self-defense when no oth­er options are avail­able to counter the threat effec­tive­ly.

Dur­ing Petraeus’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, sen­a­tors queried him about troops hav­ing dif­fer­ing meth­ods of apply­ing the tac­ti­cal direc­tive that was in place at the time. “We must be con­sis­tent through­out the force in our appli­ca­tion of this direc­tive and our rules of engage­ment,” Petraeus said. “All com­man­ders must rein­force the right and oblig­a­tion of self-defense of coali­tion forces, of our Afghan part­ners, and of oth­ers as autho­rized by the rules of engage­ment.”

The gen­er­al said that lead­ers must train forces to know and under­stand the rules of engage­ment and the intent of the tac­ti­cal direc­tive.

“We must give our troop­ers the con­fi­dence to take all nec­es­sary actions when it mat­ters most, while under­stand­ing the strate­gic con­se­quences of civil­ian casu­al­ties,” Petraeus said.

“Indeed, I expect our troop­ers to exert their best judg­ment accord­ing to the sit­u­a­tion on the ground. Beyond that, every sol­dier, sailor, air­man and Marine has my full sup­port as we take the fight to the ene­my.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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