Thursday, January 28, 2010
By Caroline Wyatt
Defence correspondent, BBC News
As a key summit on the future of Afghanistan starts in London, a shift in emphasis towards protecting civilians has seen British troops employ a new strategy dubbed "courageous restraint".
British troops from the 4th Battalion the Rifles come under fire in one of the most dangerous parts of Helmand province.
One of their snipers is poised to take a shot at the Afghan who appears to be pointing out their exact position to the insurgents, a possible "dicker".
But the sniper holds fire. The man might just be a civilian caught up in the middle.
So, instead, the British soldier aims a shot close by, not to kill or wound but to warn. The man and the insurgents disappear. The threat was enough.
That story is cited by British commanders in Helmand as just one recent example of "courageous restraint".
Gen Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander in Afghanistan, has ordered this to be one of the central tenets of the current counter-insurgency strategy: Putting protecting civilians at the heart of the military operation.
Commanders are all too aware that military force alone cannot defeat the Taliban but that getting it wrong on the battlefield - and killing or injuring Afghan civilians, or damaging their homes and crop - can help fuel the insurgency.
This new restraint means dropping fewer bombs, using fewer munitions and - when fighting - using more brain-power than fire-power.
The British unit in Helmand put together specifically for counter-insurgency - 11 Light Brigade - is trying to put that doctrine into practice on the ground, in some of the most heavily-populated areas of the province.
Use of high-explosive artillery shells by British troops is down more than 60%, while the use of smoke shells to mask movement is up nearly 70%.
For the full article click here for BBC Online