Fox News, outgoing Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s least favorite news channel (he banned it from the televisions in his HQ), reports that one of the first moves of incoming Afghan commander Gen. David Petraeus will be to loosen the controversial rules of engagement in Afghanistan to allow more artillery and air strikes. Troops in Afghanistan complain they’re fighting with one hand tied behind their back because of the various “directives” issued by McChrystal restricting the use of indirect fires in an effort to curtail civilian casualties.
Not so fast, reports Leo Shane with Stars and Stripes, who asked Petraeus’ spokesman, Col. Erik Gunhus, if the Fox report is true. Gunhus said Petraeus has made no such decision. Once he arrives in Kabul (he still has to pass Senate confirmation on Tuesday, which will be a formality), Petraeus will review the ROE and determine whether they should be modified.
At a Pentagon press conference yesterday, Joint Chief’s chair Adm. Mike Mullen said Petraeus is mindful of the sensitivity of Afghans to civilian casualties and that he also signed off on McChrystal’s directives, that have ranged from instructing troops on polite driving techniques on Afghan roads to curtailing raids on Afghan homes in the middle of the night, but that he also has the flexibility to “make changes as he sees appropriate.”
– Greg Grant