To successfully conduct counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, the United States should “learn and adapt,” Army Gen. David Petraeus said last week.
Petraeus, who serves as the current commander of the U.S. Central Command, last Thursday released new guidelines on conducting counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, which included earning the trust of the Afghans, confronting the culture of impunity and pursuing the enemy “relentlessly.”
In his written statement, the general stressed the human aspect of counterinsurgency operations, emphasizing a collaboration with the Afghan partners, civilian and military.
“Treat them as brother-in-arms,” Petraeus wrote. “Unity of effort and cooperation are not optional.”
The guidance also offered a reminder for U.S. troops interacting the locals: Be a good guest.
“Treat the Afghan people and their property with respect,” Petraeus stressed. “Think about how you drive, how you patrol, how you relate to people, and how you help the community. View your actions through the eyes of the Afghans. Alienating Afghan civilians sows the seed of our defeat.”
When it comes to going after the enemy relentlessly, Petraeus wrote how the pursuit must be done with minimal damage.
“Hunt the enemy aggressively, but use only the firepower needed to win a fight,” he stated. “We can’t win without fighting, but we also cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Moreover, if we kill civilians or damage their property in the course of our operations, we will create more enemies than our operations eliminate. That’s exactly what the Taliban wants. Don’t fall into their trap.”