In contrast to rules enacted under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has altered the rules of engagement to give U.S. more discretion to defend themselves.
In his testimony on Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Mattis said President Donald Trump gave him the authority to allow U.S. troops to fire their weapons against the Taliban in Afghanistan regardless of physical proximity, according to the Military Times.
“You see some of the results of releasing our military from, for example, a proximity requirement — how close was the enemy to the Afghan or the U.S.-advised special forces,” Mattis said.
“That is no longer the case, for example,” he added. “So these kind of restrictions that did not allow us to employ the air power fully have been removed, yes.”
Trump unveiled his new strategy on Aug. 21 to end the war in Afghanistan, vowing to commit more troops and resources to help end the 16-year conflict.
“We will also expand authorities for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan,” Trump said.
For Mattis, one of the key tenets of expanding authorities in the region meant removing restrictions previously placed on soldiers by the Obama administration.
Task and Purpose reporter Adam Linehan notes that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who played a role in advising Obama that tightening the rules of engagement was a more apt strategy than trusting the U.S. to make necessary decisions in war zones.
“Troops were no longer allowed to employ firepower — airstrikes, guided-rocket attacks, artillery barrages, mortar fire, and even their personal rifles — if doing so would endanger the life of a non-combatant,” wrote Linehan.
He continued: “Anyone who wasn’t carrying a weapon or planting a bomb was considered a non-combatant.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. troops have been prohibited since 2014 from firing their weapons against the Taliban unless the militia group posed a direct threat to U.S. troops or allied forces.
The stricter measures also indicated that U.S. troops were only permitted to strike Taliban forces in the event that the Afghan government was on track to lose a majority city in the region.
Mattis’ new strategy of loosening the rules of engagement in Afghanistan will allow U.S. troops more authority to go after members of the Taliban.
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source: Western Journalism