The U.S. military has overturned a requirement that said American troops need to be engaged by the enemy before opening fire, and that the rules of engagement are eased in order to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan faster.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told two congressional hearings that the White House gave him the authority to change the rules of engagement to increase the speed of the fight against the Taliban, Military Times reported.
In an August speech on the state of the 16-year war in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump vowed to “expand authorities for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.”
The changes in the rules of engagement include embedding U.S. and allied advisers into lower-level Afghan units, and removing proximity requirements for strikes against the Taliban.
“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,” Mattis said, according to the Military Times. “That is no longer the case, for example. So these kind of restrictions that did not allow us to employ the airpower fully have been removed, yes.”
“We are no longer bound by the need for proximity to our forces,” Mattis said. “It used to be we have to basically be in contact with that enemy.”
Regarding deploying U.S. advisers among Afghan units close the enemy, Mattis said Afghan troops are more successful in the fight when being assisted by NATO or U.S. advisers.
“Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” he said. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”
Mattis stressed that U.S. forces will do everything “humanly possible” to avoid civilian deaths, especially since Taliban forces are known to hide among civilians.
More than 3,000 additional American troops are being sent to Afghanistan, making the U.S. forces count in the country about 14,500.
While it was previously stated that there are about 8,400 service members in the country, officials recently said that number was closer to 11,000 troops.