Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that as part of his Afghanistan strategy, warfighters would see restrictions lifted and authorities expanded. Now, there is a sense of just what he meant in his Aug. 21 speech.
Looser rules of engagement have long been advocated by a number of officials.
“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,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Prior to the change, Taliban forces in training camps and assembly areas were not targeted, in essence creating safe havens. Now, Taliban bases are being hit. In April, prior to Trump’s speech, the United States used the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb to hit a Taliban tunnel complex.
Furthermore, American advisors will now be pushed to battalion and brigade headquarters to get them closer to Afghan units engaged in combat. American aircraft can often only provide close-air support when the units have American advisors.
“Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”
The Secretary of Defense also noted that the tendency that the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan have shown to hide among civilian populations means that American forces will still need to ensure that they do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.