New York, Jun 22: General Stanley A McChrystal, the new American commander in Afghanistan, has said he would sharply restrict the use of air strikes, in an effort to reduce the civilian deaths, which were undermining the US-led mission.
In interviews over the past few days, General McChrystal said the use of air strikes during firefights would in most cases be allowed only to prevent American and other coalition troops from being overrun.
Even in the cases of active firefights with Taliban forces, he said, air strikes will be limited if the combat is taking place in populated areas, the very circumstances in which most Afghan civilian deaths have occurred.
The restrictions will be especially tight in attacking houses and compounds where insurgents are believed to have taken cover, The New York Times reports."Air power contains the seeds of our own destruction if we do not use it responsibly. We can lose this fight," General McChrystal told a group of his senior officers during a video conference last week.
"When we shoot into a compound, that should only be for the protection of our forces. I want everyone to understand that," he said.The statements by General McChrystal signaled the tightening of the rules for using air strikes, which, while considered indispensable for protecting troops, have killed hundreds of civilians.
In December, then American commander at the time, Gen. David D. McKiernan, issued guidelines ordering his soldiers to use force that was proportional to the provocation and that minimized the risk of civilian casualties.