Congress, Military Question 'Protect Afghans' Rule

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2009 9:38 AM CDT
Congress, Military Question 'Protect Afghans' Rule
Sen. Susan Collins is seen on Capitol Hill during a meeting of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

With US casualties mounting in Afghanistan, some members of Congress are questioning recent orders that have put troops at greater risk in order to protect Afghan civilians, the Washington Post reports. Gen. Stanley McChrystal recently berated the military for being “preoccupied with protection of our own forces.” He ordered soldiers to spend less time in fortified areas, and issued rules limiting airstrikes. The result? Civilian deaths plummeted this summer, but military casualties more than doubled.

“I am troubled if we are putting our troops at greater risk in order to go to such extremes to avoid Afghan casualties,” said Sen. Susan Collins, who’s asked the Pentagon to review McChrystal’s new rules of engagement. Democrats Mark Begich and Carl Levin have voiced concerns as well, as have military families. "We've hamstrung ourselves in fear of angering a population that hates us anyway," said a retired Marine Corps sergeant whose son died there last month. And some commanders in Afghanistan say insurgents are exploiting the rules; one lieutenant colonel remarked that the Taliban “know the directive better than we do.” (More Afghanistan stories.)

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