Petraeus to review Afghan rules of engagement

Eli Lake:

Predicting "tough fighting" ahead, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus vowed to review rules of engagement to ensure U.S. troops aren't handicapped on the battlefield and left open the prospect of delaying troop withdrawals as he breezed through Senate confirmation hearings as President Obama's nominee to lead the war in Afghanistan.

Less than a week after Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal resigned after making disparaging remarks about his civilian bosses, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved Gen. Petraeus to replace him as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. The full Senate likely will confirm Gen. Petraeus in coming days.

In his opening testimony, the four-star general said that "protecting the [Afghan] population inevitably requires killing, capturing or turning the insurgents." But he also pledged to continue the policy of trying to keep Afghan insurgents to a bare minimum.

Some U.S. forces in Afghanistan have complained that the rules of engagement have left units vulnerable to attack. Gen. Petraeus said he would seek a balance between minimizing casualties and protecting soldiers in the battlefield.

But he also said that some problems may stem from how the rules of engagement, or the procedures for when U.S. soldiers can fire their weapons, are interpreted at the ground level.


I do think some of the interpretation of the rules of engagement have been extreme. Those interpretations have put the troops life at risk. I suspect that one of the reasons for the extreme interpretation has to do with commanders more concerned with how the decision will effect their career than how it will effect the troops in harms way. That is where Petraeus needs to make a difference.


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