McChrystal Quote Suggests Flippant View Of Civilian Casualty Policies

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June 22, 2010 11:24 a.m.

One of the hallmarks of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan are new rules of engagement that, whether or not they are effective, are designed to reduce killing of civilians by American planes and soldiers.

That’s why it’s surprising to see McChrystal quoted in the big Rolling Stone profile seeming to take a decidedly flippant view of those very policies. Greg Sargent and Marcy Wheeler highlighted this passage:

To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. “You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight,” McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he’ll add, “I’m going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though.” In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency.

The general seems to be saying he would publicly decry maneuvers that might get out of hand, but privately give soldiers a wink and a nod — or even a pat on the back — as long as they are hitting their target numbers. The question to ask, however, is why a soldier would need a fake-scolding if a night’s work resulted solely in the capture or killing of insurgents.

The article goes on to quote a soldier who argues that McChrystal’s rules of engagement — which put a premium on reducing civilian casualties — “put soldiers’ lives in even greater danger.”

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