General Petraeus vows to spare civilians in Afghan war
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Last Updated: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 21:31
Brussels: US General David Petraeus, the new Afghan war commander, pledged on Thursday to give his forces the right firepower to fight the Taliban but insisted that sparing civilian lives remained a priority.

Petraeus was at NATO headquarters in Brussels to brief allies before taking up his post in Afghanistan, where a new bout of fighting left at least 31 Taliban insurgents dead in the southern province of Helmand.

The general admitted that troops were unhappy with the rules of engagement, which limit air strikes and artillery and mortar fire to prevent civilian casualties, but he denied that he planned to change them.

"There are concerns among the ranks of some of our troops on the ground that some of the processes have become a bit too bureaucratic," he told a news conference after meeting with NATO ambassadors.

"I have a moral imperative as a commander... to bring all force that is available to bear when our troopers, and by the way our Afghan partners, are in a tough position," Petraeus said.

But the commander said there was "no intent to change" the rules, which are part of a troop surge strategy launched by the United States in a bid to beat back a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

"In a counter-insurgency the human terrain is the decisive terrain and therefore you must do everything humanly possible to protect the population and indeed again to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life," he said.


First Published: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 21:31

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