Petraeus vows to keep Afghan civilian deaths down

Petraeus vows to keep Afghan civilian deaths down

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan will do everything they can to keep Afghan civilian casualties down, the alliance's new commander in the country, General David Petraeus, said Thursday, DPA reported.

But the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should take a second look at its battlefield rules to make sure that troops are given the full protection of air power and artillery when they need it, Petraeus said after talks with NATO diplomats in Brussels.

"We must maintain the commitment to reducing the loss of innocent civilian life in the course of military operations to an absolute minimum," Petraeus stressed.

On Wednesday, the US Senate unanimously approved the appointment of Petraeus to head ISAF, after his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, resigned following the publication of a magazine article in which he and his aides criticised the White House.

Petraeus praised McChrystal's "enormous contribution" to the Afghan mission and said that ISAF's rules of engagement, designed to minimise civilian casualties, were "sound."

But at the same time, "There are concerns amongst the ranks of some troopers on the ground that some of the processes (for requesting combat support and air strikes) have become a bit too bureaucratic," he said.

The magazine article which led to McChrystal's fall quoted front-line troops as saying that the rules of engagement meant that they had to go into battle without adequate support.

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

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