By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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."