Afghans see change in US command as a threat to civilians

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Los Angeles, July 5 (ANI): U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' taking command of the troubled Afghan war is worrying Afghans, who fear that the rules laid down by the former Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan Stanley Allen McChrystal to protect civilians may be revised.

According to the LA Times, the civilians fear that now, it will be more dangerous to come into contact with the foreign forces in their midst. Already, many motorists freeze with anxiety at the sight of a Western convoy or when coming up on a military checkpoint, fearing they will be taken for would-be suicide attackers and shot.

On Sunday, U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, formally took command of Western forces in Afghanistan.

"Rules of engagement" is the dry, legalistic term for the visceral battlefield calculus of when and whether to use deadly force to counter threat, real or perceived. Across Afghanistan, these rules serve as the marching orders that govern Western troops' daily encounters with Taliban fighters and color dealings with Afghan civilians, the Times said.

The paper also stated that Petraeus must decide in the coming weeks or months whether to recalibrate the stringent rules of engagement laid down last summer by his predecessor, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who recently resigned over remarks that laid bare a dysfunctional civilian-military relationship.

"As you and our Afghan partners on the ground get into tough situations, we must employ all assets to ensure your safety," Petraeus assured the civilians after taking charge.

Earlier, at his Senate confirmation hearings last week, Petraeus said he foresaw no major shift in strategy in the Afghanistan war. But he has made it clear that even if the rules of engagement do not change, the nuances of how they are implemented will get a close new look, the paper said.

Under the procedures put in place by McChrystal, commanders could not fire on buildings or other sites where they had reason to think civilians might be present unless their own forces were in imminent danger of being overrun. And even then, they were told to break off engagements and withdraw rather than risk harming noncombatants, it added.

According to the paper, when McChrystal took over as commander in June 2009, foreign forces in Afghanistan were the accidental cause of nearly as many civilian deaths as were the insurgents, who often deliberately put noncombatants in harm's way.

McChrystal set out to change that and was credited with bringing about a substantial drop in the proportion of civilian casualties suffered at the hands of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and its Afghan allies, it added. (ANI)

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