Monday, June 22, 2009

Wire: Rules of Disengagement - US to Restrict Afghan Airstrikes

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan says he will sharply restrict the use of airstrikes in an effort to reduce civilian casualties in the fight against the Taliban.

General Stanley McChrystal has told The New York Times newspaper that in most cases, airstrikes will only be used in Afghanistan to prevent U.S. and other coalition troops from being overrun by adversaries.

VOA News said the tactic is part of the Obama administration's new strategy in Afghanistan.

Civilian casualties in counter-insurgency operations have hurt U.S. and NATO efforts to win the support of local Afghans, and turned some in support of the militants. Afghan leaders have pressed for months for foreign troops to end airstrikes and nighttime house raids, which are frequently blamed for civilian deaths, VOA said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Rear Adm. Greg Smith is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that McChrystal also will issue new rules to U.S. and NATO forces about fighting with militants who are hiding in Afghan houses.

In Afghanistan Monday, the U.S. military said said back-to-back explosions killed as many as eight civilians in Khost. In the same eastern province, NATO says its troops shot and killed an Afghan civilian in his car after he failed to heed a warning to stop.

Earlier, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed three Afghan soldiers in southern Kandahar province.

In the nearby province of Nangarhar, an explosion went off at an ammunition storage area Monday, killing a child and wounding 20 others. The incident is under investigation.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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