The best thing to come out of the McChrystal dust-up

From Fox News: Petraeus to Modify Afghanistan Rules of Engagement, Source Says:

A military source close to Gen. David Petraeus told Fox News that one of the first things the general will do when he takes over in Afghanistan is to modify the rules of engagement to make it easier for U.S. troops to engage in combat with the enemy, though a Petraeus spokesman pushed back on the claim.

Troops on the ground and some military commanders have said the strict rules — aimed at preventing civilian casualties — have effectively forced the troops to fight with one hand tied behind their backs.

The military source who has talked with Petraeus said the general will make those changes. Other sources were not so sure, but said they wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen once Petraeus takes command.

Petraeus spokesman Col. Erik Gunhus disputed the claim Friday, telling Fox News it’s too soon to tell whether Petraeus would change the current rules. But he said it is one of many issues he’ll take under consideration during his assessment after he’s confirmed and after he takes over command in Afghanistan.

My prediction: Considering how bad things are getting in Afghanistan, it will most definitely happen.

Stripes Central adds:

In his public remarks this week the president emphasized that Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s firing was “a change in personnel, not a change in policy” and that he expects replacement commander Gen. David Petraeus to continue the “hearts and minds” counterinsurgency strategy already in place there.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen reiterated that point in a Pentagon press conference Thursday, but also noted that doesn’t mean everything will stay the same. Some of specific rules of engagement – when troops can return fire, where they can patrol, who they can detain – could see major changes in coming weeks.

“Any new commander, Gen. Petraeus included, will go in, assess his command and what it is going to take to achieve the mission and certainly has the flexibility to make changes that he thinks are necessary,” Mullen told reporters. “And so my expectation is, certainly that’s what (he) will do widely and make adjustments.”

That’s welcome news for troops in Afghanistan who’ve been quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) complaining about limitations they face in completing the mission there. Earlier this week troops at one base in Afghanistan celebrated McChrystal’s possible firing, citing the restrictions as too severe for their safety.

Nice Deb has much more.

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