ISAF Commander Issues Updated Tactical Directive
International Security Assistance Force Commander, Gen. David Petraeus has issued his updated Tactical Directive to all units within Afghanistan.
The updated directive provides guidance and intent for the “disciplined use of force” in support of ISAF and USFOR-A operations. The new directive emphasizes that the central feature of the struggle in Afghanistan is the Afghan people. The directive firmly places the presence of civilians at the center of every decision involving the use of force.
While stressing the importance of continuing our efforts to minimize loss of innocent civilian life on our operation, it also stresses the right and obligation of our troops to defend themselves and the coalition and Afghan forces with whom we serve shoulder to shoulder.
This update is a refinement of the previous directive and provides both clarification and re-affirmation of population-centric counterinsurgency principles. Although the new tactical directive replaces the original directive, and in a few places changes or replaces previous guidance, it incorporates much of what was included in the previous directive, while ensuring that some areas that may have led to misperceptions are clarified.
As Petraeus emphasizes in the Directive, “This effort is a contest of wills. Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people. In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners.”
The Tactical Directive addresses a number of topics including the protection of the Afghan people from insurgent violence and from damage ISAF units inadvertently cause to them or their property, as well as the importance of partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and employing the free that is required when ISAF or Afghan forces are in a tough spot.
Areas of refinement and clarification in the 2010 Tactical Directive include:
o A provision that subordinate commanders are not authorized to further restrict this guidance without my approval.
o Guidelines on the use of fires (air-to-ground munitions or indirect fires) for situations where civilians are known, or are likely to be present.
o Instructions that nothing in this directive “is intended to hinder an individual’s right to self-defense.”
o Explanation that in determining whether civilians may be present, it is irrelevant whether a structure has been previously struck or is considered to be in such condition habitation is unlikely. The question is whether civilians may be present, and Petraeus expresses confidence in ISAF commanders making such determinations.
o Instructions that prior to the use of fires, commanders need to be able to affirm that their actions will not bring harm to civilians except in situations where the safety of ISAF or Afghan forces is at risk.
o Emphasis on the importance of partnering with Afghan National Security Forces.
The updated directive is classified; unclassified portions of the document are included below:
“This directive applies to all ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan forces operating under operational or tactical control. Subordinate commanders are not authorized to further restrict this guidance without my approval.
Our counterinsurgency strategy is achieving progress in the face of tough enemies and a number of other challenges. Concentrating our efforts on protecting the population is having a significant effect. We have increased security in some key areas, and we have reduced the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces.
The Afghan population is, in a number of areas, increasingly supportive of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and of coalition forces. We have also seen support for the insurgency decrease in various areas as the number of insurgent-caused civilian casualties has risen dramatically. We must build on this momentum.
This effort is a contest of wills. Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people. In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners.
We must continue – indeed, redouble – our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum. Every Afghan civilian death diminishes our cause. If we use excessive force or operate contrary to our counterinsurgency principles, tactical victories may prove to be strategic setbacks.
We must never forget that the center of gravity in this struggle is the Afghan people; it is they who will ultimately determine the future of Afghanistan.
Prior to the use of fires, the commander approving the strike must determine that no civilians are present. If unable to assess the risk of civilian presence, fires are prohibited, except under of the following two conditions (specific conditions deleted due to operational security; however, they have to do with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces).
(NOTE) This directive, as with the previous version, does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options are available to effectively counter the threat.
Protecting the Afghan people does require killing, capturing, or turning the insurgents. Indeed, as I noted earlier, we must pursue the Taliban tenaciously. But we must fight with great discipline and tactical patience.
We must balance our pursuit of the enemy with our efforts to minimize loss of innocent civilian life, and with our obligation to protect our troops. Our forces have been striving to do that, and we will continue to do so.
In so doing, however, we must remember that it is a moral imperative both to protect Afghan civilians and to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom we are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder when they are in a tough spot.
We must be consistent throughout the force in our application of this directive and our rules of engagement. All commanders must reinforce the right and obligation of self-defense of coalition forces, of our Afghan partners, and of others as authorized by the rules of engagement.
We must train our forces to know and understand the rules of engagement and the intent of the tactical directive. We must give our troopers the confidence to take all necessary actions when it matters most, while understanding the strategic consequences of civilian casualties. Indeed, I expect our troopers to exert their best judgment according to the situation on the ground. Beyond that, every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine has my full support as we take the fight to the enemy.
Partnering is how we operate. Some civilian casualties result from a misunderstanding or ignorance of local customs and behaviours. No individuals are more attuned to the Afghan culture than our Afghan partners. Accordingly, it is essential that all operations be partnered with an ANSF unit and that our Afghan partners be part of the planning and execution phases. Their presence will ensure greater situational awareness. It will also serve to alleviate anxiety on the part of the local population and build confidence in Afghan security forces.
I expect every operation and patrol to be partnered. If there are operational reasons why partnership is not possible for a particular operation, the CONOP approval authority must be informed.
Partnership is an essential aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy. It is also an indispensible element of the transition of security responsibility to ANSF.
Again, we need to build on the momentum we are achieving. I expect every trooper and commander to use force judiciously, especially in situations where civilians may be present. At the same time, we must employ all assets to ensure our troopers’ safety, keeping in mind the importance of protecting the Afghan people as we do.
This is a critical challenge at a critical time; but we must and will succeed. I expect that everyone under my command, operational and tactical, will not only adhere to the letter of this directive, but – more importantly – to its intent.
Strategic and operational commanders cannot anticipate every engagement. We have no desire to undermine the judgment of tactical commanders. However, that judgment should always be guided by my intent. Take the fight to the enemy. And protect the Afghan people and help our Afghan partners defeat the insurgency.”
The directive was issued on August 1, 2010 and supersedes the version published, July 1, 2009.
Article by ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs