KABUL, Afghanistan – Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Com­man­der, Gen­er­al David Petraeus has issued his updat­ed Tac­ti­cal Direc­tive, pro­vid­ing guid­ance and intent for the use of force by ISAF and USFOR‑A units oper­at­ing in Afghanistan.

The Tac­ti­cal Direc­tive rein­forces the con­cept of “dis­ci­plined use of force” in our part­ner­ship with Afghan Secu­ri­ty Forces to defeat the insur­gency in Afghanistan. 

The updat­ed direc­tive is clas­si­fied; unclas­si­fied por­tions of the doc­u­ment are includ­ed below. 

“This direc­tive applies to all ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR‑A) forces oper­at­ing under oper­a­tional or tac­ti­cal con­trol … Sub­or­di­nate com­man­ders are not autho­rized to fur­ther restrict this guid­ance with­out my approval. 

Our coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy is achiev­ing progress in the face of tough ene­mies and a num­ber of oth­er chal­lenges. Con­cen­trat­ing our efforts on pro­tect­ing the pop­u­la­tion is hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant effect. We have increased secu­ri­ty in some key areas, and we have reduced the num­ber of civil­ian casu­al­ties caused by coali­tion forces. 

The Afghan pop­u­la­tion is, in a num­ber of areas, increas­ing­ly sup­port­ive of the Gov­ern­ment of the Islam­ic Repub­lic of Afghanistan and of coali­tion forces. We have also seen sup­port for the insur­gency decrease in var­i­ous areas as the num­ber of insur­gent-caused civil­ian casu­al­ties has risen dra­mat­i­cal­ly. We must build on this momentum. 

This effort is a con­test of wills. Our ene­mies will do all that they can to shake our con­fi­dence and the con­fi­dence of the Afghan peo­ple. In turn, we must con­tin­ue to demon­strate our resolve to the ene­my. We will do so through our relent­less pur­suit of the Tal­iban and oth­ers who mean Afghanistan harm, through our com­pas­sion for the Afghan peo­ple, and through the exam­ple we pro­vide to our Afghan partners. 

We must con­tin­ue – indeed, redou­ble – our efforts to reduce the loss of inno­cent civil­ian life to an absolute min­i­mum. Every Afghan civil­ian death dimin­ish­es our cause. If we use exces­sive force or oper­ate con­trary to our coun­terin­sur­gency prin­ci­ples, tac­ti­cal vic­to­ries may prove to be strate­gic setbacks. 

We must nev­er for­get that the cen­ter of grav­i­ty in this strug­gle is the Afghan peo­ple; it is they who will ulti­mate­ly deter­mine the future of Afghanistan … 

Pri­or to the use of fires, the com­man­der approv­ing the strike must deter­mine that no civil­ians are present. If unable to assess the risk of civil­ian pres­ence, fires are pro­hib­it­ed, except under of the fol­low­ing two con­di­tions (spe­cif­ic con­di­tions delet­ed due to oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty; how­ev­er, they have to do with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces). 

(NOTE) This direc­tive, as with the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, does not pre­vent com­man­ders from pro­tect­ing the lives of their men and women as a mat­ter of self-defense where it is deter­mined no oth­er options are avail­able to effec­tive­ly counter the threat. 

… Pro­tect­ing the Afghan peo­ple does require killing, cap­tur­ing, or turn­ing the insur­gents. Indeed, as I not­ed ear­li­er, we must pur­sue the Tal­iban tena­cious­ly. But we must fight with great dis­ci­pline and tac­ti­cal patience. 

We must bal­ance our pur­suit of the ene­my with our efforts to min­i­mize loss of inno­cent civil­ian life, and with our oblig­a­tion to pro­tect our troops. Our forces have been striv­ing to do that, and we will con­tin­ue to do so. 

In so doing, how­ev­er, we must remem­ber that it is a moral imper­a­tive both to pro­tect Afghan civil­ians and to bring all assets to bear to pro­tect our men and women in uni­form and the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces with whom we are fight­ing shoul­der-to-shoul­der when they are in a tough spot. 

We must be con­sis­tent through­out the force in our appli­ca­tion of this direc­tive and our rules of engage­ment. 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. 

We must train our 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. 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. 

… Part­ner­ing is how we oper­ate. Some civil­ian casu­al­ties result from a mis­un­der­stand­ing or igno­rance of local cus­toms and behav­iors. No indi­vid­u­als are more attuned to the Afghan cul­ture than our Afghan part­ners. Accord­ing­ly, it is essen­tial that all oper­a­tions be part­nered with an ANSF unit and that our Afghan part­ners be part of the plan­ning and exe­cu­tion phas­es. Their pres­ence will ensure greater sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness. It will also serve to alle­vi­ate anx­i­ety on the part of the local pop­u­la­tion and build con­fi­dence in Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. 

I expect every oper­a­tion and patrol to be part­nered. If there are oper­a­tional rea­sons why part­ner­ship is not pos­si­ble for a par­tic­u­lar oper­a­tion, the CONOP approval author­i­ty must be informed … 

Part­ner­ship is an essen­tial aspect of our coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy. It is also an indis­pen­si­ble ele­ment of the tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to ANSF

Again, we need to build on the momen­tum we are achiev­ing. I expect every troop­er and com­man­der to use force judi­cious­ly, espe­cial­ly in sit­u­a­tions where civil­ians may be present. At the same time, we must employ all assets to ensure our troop­ers’ safe­ty, keep­ing in mind the impor­tance of pro­tect­ing the Afghan peo­ple as we do. 

This is a crit­i­cal chal­lenge at a crit­i­cal time; but we must and will suc­ceed. I expect that every­one under my com­mand, oper­a­tional and tac­ti­cal, will not only adhere to the let­ter of this direc­tive, but – more impor­tant­ly – to its intent. 

Strate­gic and oper­a­tional com­man­ders can­not antic­i­pate every engage­ment. We have no desire to under­mine the judg­ment of tac­ti­cal com­man­ders. How­ev­er, that judg­ment should always be guid­ed by my intent. Take the fight to the ene­my. And pro­tect the Afghan peo­ple and help our Afghan part­ners defeat the insurgency.” 

The direc­tive was issued on August 1, 2010, replac­ing the July 1, 2009 version. 

Press release
Com­piled from Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Joint Com­mand News Releases 

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