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The Trump administration announced new rules on Saturday for planning civilian casualties
Pentagon says it will not clear anti-terrorist airstrikes in Afghanistan with Taliban
The Pentagon said on Saturday it would not clear anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan with Taliban insurgents.
The US has for months complained that it lacked adequate data on the number of civilians killed in its operations against insurgents in Afghanistan.
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Gen Joseph Votel, the commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, said at a news conference he would now only take into account what the Afghan government had provided about civilian casualties from its “overall counter-terrorism” operations.
The Taliban, which carried out its annual spring offensive last month, has pledged to step up attacks on foreign forces, the Afghan government and civilians.
In June, Votel said he had several years of intelligence suggesting as many as 60% of civilian casualties were caused by the Afghan government and its US-backed allies, such as air strikes and targeted raids.
With the Pentagon shifting the goalposts of Afghanistan policy, it was unclear what alternative gauge the Trump administration would use to assess civilian casualties from the war.
Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House armed services committee, said the new policy could endanger US forces.
“Yet another escalation of the war in Afghanistan threatens to endanger our troops by making them assume the blame for the very enemy they are trying to eliminate,” Smith said in a statement.
Washington has stepped up its bombings in Afghanistan since Donald Trump decided in August to push out the coalition commander, General John Nicholson, while standing up a new counter-terrorism force.
Democratic opponents of Trump’s Afghanistan strategy had argued that the new approach was unlikely to bring success in the 18-year-old war.
The Trump administration has signaled it could bring back a US ground force of as many as 10,000 troops, as it did from 2001 to 2014.
But the Pentagon has been cautious about that, saying the troop level would depend on what strategy it chose.
The year-end deadline to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan has been extended and the Pentagon has been actively seeking a political settlement with the Taliban, perhaps to include an international peace conference.