In a statement made to Congress yesterday, General David Petraeus promised to review the much-disparaged rules of engagement that U.S. forces are operating under in Afghanistan. The intent of restrictive rules of engagement is to protect civilians, but these rules are widely disliked by U.S. forces, as they often endanger their lives while allowing Taliban fighters to escape and fight another day (and kill more soldiers and civilians). General Petraeus's statement on the rules of engagement is strongly worded. From the New York Times:
“I want to assure the mothers and fathers of those fighting in Afghanistan that I see it as a moral imperative to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform,” General Petraeus told the committee during a three-hour session marked by lavish praise for the general from members of both parties. “Those on the ground must have all the support they need when they are in a tough situation.”
General Petraeus said the issue was so important that he had consulted on the matter in the past week with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan as well as other Afghan leaders, “and they are in full agreement with me on this.” He added, “I mention this because I am keenly aware of concerns by some of our troopers on the ground about the application of our rules of engagement and the tactical directive.”
A relaxation of the rules of engagement will allow General Petraeus to take a more aggressive stance with the Taliban. One thing that many analysts forget about Iraq is the high operational tempo against al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army. U.S. and Iraqi troops killed tens of thousands of terrorists and insurgents before security was restored to a tolerable level and Iraqi troops were able to take control.
Meanwhile, the Taliban launched another assault on one of the major NATO hubs in Afghanistan. Earlier this morning, a Taliban assault squad struck the main gate at Jalalabad Airfield in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the main gate. Then a small, heavily armed team attempted to storm the base. U.S. and Afghan troops wiped out the team.
The assault is the third against a major airbase since mid-May. The Taliban launched similar attacks against Bagram Airbase on May 19 and Kandahar Airfield three days later. The attacks, carried out by small teams, are not major threats to the base security. But the Taliban's intent is different: They are seeking to show they can strike NATO forces at their largest bases. With Many NATO countries already looking for the exit in Afghanistan, these attacks serve to soften the will of European leaders.