Gen. Petraeus Issues Air Strike Edict: No Strikes Near Civilians, Except in Secret Cases


Directive Said to Be Little Changed From McChrystal’s Version

New US Commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus has issued new orders related to air and artillery strikes against civilians. The short answer is “don’t,” while the long answer is that troops shouldn’t use the strikes when they know civilians will be killed except in two cases.

While the existence of the two cases was not kept a secret, exactly what occasions under which the US troops would be allowed to deliberately kill Afghan civilians was kept a secret, citing “operational security.”


The wording of the directive was designed to be largely identical to the version from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, but added a clause about the importance of keeping Afghan security forces on hand at all times, and another about better training for US troops to actually apply the rules.

The last clause may be the most important, as despite McChrystal’s orders, a large number of civilians continue to be killed in US strikes. Gen. Petraeus is expected to make other changes to McChrystal’s rules of engagement, however, relaxing restrictions on combat near civilians. The move comes amid complaints that the efforts to avoid killing civilians are “harming morale.”

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