Petraeus Expected to Tone Down Attempts to Avoid Civilian Deaths

'Courageous Restraint' Policy of McChrystal Said to Be Under Review

Though the replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as the commander in Afghanistan isn’t expected to have any major positive effects, like ending the war or at least slowing the escalation, it seems that it is having some negative effects.

In addition to what will likely be the end of the July 2011 drawdown date, Pentagon officials are also saying that Gen. Petraeus is going to review the policy Gen. McChrystal called “courageous restraint,” a euphemism for a collection of orders deigned to reduce the number of civilians killed by US soldiers.

Gen. McChrystal had made a number of such changes, including restrictions on air strikes in populated areas and restrictions on raids of civilian homes at night.

The effectiveness of these rules is certainly a matter of no small dispute, as the number of civilians slain has continued to rise at an alarming rate. Yet while the rules were clearly nowhere near enough, they were an effort.

But Gen. Petraeus’ “review” of the policies is nothing resembling an effort to make the restraint more effective. Rather, officials say he is looking to remove some of those restrictions, how many remains to be seen. In effect, he will making policy changes explicitly to put more Afghan civilians’ lives in jeopardy.

The “why” behind this is somewhat convoluted. Despite administration claims to the contrary it is no real secret that the McChrystal Plan isn’t going way. Rather than admit the escalation has been a failure, however, some in the Pentagon seem eager to blame the lack of progress on “restrictions” placed on the troops. Gen. Petraeus appears to be of this mind as well, and is looking to free soldiers from these restrictions, regardless of the costs in civilian lives.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.