Report suggests changes to rules of engagement could cause increased insurgent attacks

Gen. Petraeus Assumes Command of ISAF

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds “strong evidence” that “local exposure to ISAF generated civilian casualties drives increased insurgent violence over the long-run.” (Luke N. Condra, Joseph H. Felter, Radha K. Iyengar & Jacob N. Shapiro, The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, NBER Working Paper No. 16152, July 2010, available for purchase from NBER).

General Stanley McChrystal, the recently replaced U.S. commander in Afghanistan, sharply restricted U.S. and NATO “rules of engagement” last year in an effort to reduce Afghan civilian casualties and thus undermine Taliban recruiting. The NBER authors agree with this approach, concluding that “if counterinsurgent forces in Afghanistan wish to minimize insurgent recruitment, they must minimize harm to civilians despite the greater risk this entails.”

The results of the study suggest that General David Petraeus, who as McChrystal’s replacement has been looking at loosening those rules, would strengthen the Taliban if he did so.

Read more: Mark Thompson, “McChrystal’s Rules Helped Reduce Attacks, Study Says“, Time Magazine, 22 July 2010

Photo credit: U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Doug Houser

Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan strategy, Civilian deaths, General David Petraeus, General Stanley McChrystal