United State protect Afghan civilians

The incoming US general in charge of troops in Afghanistan says his priority will be to review all NATO operations in a bid to reduce civilian casualties.Gen Stanley McChrystal said the population needed protection from the enemy, but also “from the unintended consequences of our operation”. His comments come as regional commander Gen David Petraeus said violent attacks by insurgents have worsened. They are at the highest level since the Taliban were toppled in 2001. There are currently more than 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, mostly under Nato command. The Obama administration plans to send an additional 21,000 troops. “When we are in position, one of the things we’ll do is reviewing all of our rules of engagement and all the instructions to our units, with the emphasis that we are fighting for the population. That involves protecting them both from the enemy and from unintended consequences of our operation; because we know that although an operation may be conducted for the right reason, if it has negative effects it can have a negative outcome for everyone.” Correspondents say civilian casualties are causing growing public outrage throughout Afghanistan and friction between the US and Afghan governments.

Gen McChrystal said his aim was to prevent the re-emergence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, blocking any future “safe havens” in Afghanistan. He will bring as many as 400 senior staff with him to Afghanistan to implement changes in how the US approaches the war.

Asked if it would be a long-term operation in Afghanistan,: “It will go on until we achieve the kind of progress we want to achieve. He said he looked forward to continuing and increasing the partnership with British forces in Afghanistan. Without expressly calling for long-term reinforcements he made it clear that any increase in British troop’s numbers would be very welcome.

High-value’ targets: With his experience of going after Saddam Hussein and other high-profile leaders, Gen McChrystal said he was not prepared to predict what would happen to Osama bin Laden, although he did say there was “a requirement to go after significant leaders”. If we win this effort it will be because we protected the population and going after the high-value enemy targets will just be a supporting effort to do that.” Gen Petraeus, who oversees US military operations across the Middle East, as well as in Afghanistan and Central Asia, said attacks had worsened over the past two years and reached a new high in the past week. He said difficult times ahead were partly because US forces were targeting what he called militant sanctuaries and safe havens.

New challenges: There were more than 400 insurgent attacks last week, compared with less than 50 per week in January 2004. Some of this will go up because we are going to go after their sanctuaries and safe havens as we must,” Gen Petraeus, who heads US Central Command, said in a speech at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security. But there is no question the situation has deteriorated over the course of the past two years in particular and there are difficult times ahead.” Gen Petraeus said he was facing challenges in Afghanistan which had not featured during his time in Iraq and which included difficulties in relations with local people. He stressed the need for “being good partners and good neighbors and having enormous concern, needless to say, about civilian casualties in everything we do”.

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