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U.S. Wants More Robust Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2005 – The United States wants its NATO allies to change the rules of engagement for its troops in Afghanistan as the alliance prepares to take over a more dangerous area, defense officials said this week.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Kabul that the NATO presence in Afghanistan will grow between 7,000 and 15,000 soldiers in the coming months. NATO's International Security Assistance Force plans to take over responsibility for the southern region of the country in January.

American officials would like to see more robust rules of engagement before NATO troops move into the area around Kandahar. NATO currently is responsible for the security mission in the northern and western parts of Afghanistan. NATO officials said the areas are the more peaceful parts of the country.

But the move into the south - in and around Kandahar especially - will put the NATO assistance force in an area that provided support for Mullah Omar and the Taliban. There are still incidents in the area, and the Taliban has tried to mount operations against American and Afghan National Army soldiers patrolling in the area.

The NATO rules of engagement for the area should be more robust, defense officials said, and they should also be the same for each nationality.

"There are more than 40 nations supporting the effort in Afghanistan," said a senior defense official speaking on background. "Many of the nations have caveats on how their forces may be used. This makes it unnecessarily complicated for commanders."

Some nations have placed restrictions on what their forces can do. Some countries will allow their forces to provide humanitarian assistance only. Others will allow their soldiers to participate in defensive operations, but not in offensive ones.

The NATO security assistance force should have one set of rules, or at least have a "minimal number of caveats," the officials said, making it easier for NATO personnel to work with their American and Afghan counterparts in the region.

ISAF began as a coalition of the willing under British command in 2001. In August 2003, the NATO alliance took over responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force. NATO expanded beyond the capital of Kabul and took over responsibility in the northern part of the country. In May 2005, NATO began moving in to the western part of the nation. It is now moving into the south and plans call for NATO to move into the eastern provinces - those on the border with Pakistan - by the end of 2006.

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