11:04 03 July 2012
New tactical orders were given to British soldiers n Afghanistan not to shoot at the Taliban unless they are fired at, and this has caused an alarming spike in the number of casualties. The UK troops say that the change in tactics was part of America’s efforts to reduce the number of wounded civilians, but that it made them highly vulnerable when they are manning road checkpoints or patrolling the “green zone”, a wide expanse of dense vegetation in the river valley, which is known to be a heartland for the Taliban.
In three months, eleven British soldiers were killed by gunfire in Helmand province, whereas last year only two were killed within the same period of time.
Spokesmen for multinational forces confirmed that the new orders were given following a tactical review.
UK troops admitted to having been shocked by the new orders, and that they found it difficult to obey. “On previous tours, we would have engaged the enemy first to show them what we’re made of. We’re up for a fight but now we always have to back off,” says a junior non-commissioned officer. While the troops are used to changes in tactics over the years, their orders for 2012, they say, “are the hardest because we’re taking so many backward steps.”
Former British Army officer and conservative MP Patrick Mercer said, “Soldiers I’ve spoken to feel frustrated and vulnerable. The rise in fatal wounds from gunshots comes as no surprise.”
Other military sources that the new orders also come at a wrong time, as the Taliban also issued new orders to its men to step up ambushing as a result of the British troops’ success in thwarting Taliban mines and explosive devices.
The ISAF, from which the new orders came, explained that the new orders came after the Afghan president Hamid Karzai criticized the ISAF for causing casualties among civilians.
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