Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) called on President Barack Obama and the top general in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, to "loosen" the rules of engagement put in place to lessen civilian casualties.
Sen. Joe Lieberman on Sunday urged Gen. David Petraeus to change the rules of engagement "as soon as possible" for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying the strict policy has "hurt morale" among American military.
The Connecticut independent senator, speaking from Kabul on "Fox News Sunday," said the incoming commander told him he was "committed" to reviewing the rules. Those rules, put in place by outgoing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, are classified but generally aim to limit civilian casualties by prohibiting troops from firing unless they're shot at -- or from launching bomb or artillery attacks when civilians are near the target.
Lieberman acknowledged that civilian casualties damage the counterinsurgency campaign U.S.-led troops are trying to wage, but said the policy has also put American troops in harm's way.
"Ultimately, we've got to be concerned about the safety of our American troops here," Lieberman said. He said he's heard stories about troops having to wait too long to get air support when under fire. "We can't let that happen."
Gen. David Petraeus, who replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal as head of the Afghanistan mission, has been under pressure to change his predecessor's rules of engagement. Responding to growing anger among Afghans at the deaths of civilians in air strikes, the Obama administration changed the rules of engagement last year, ordering soldiers only to fire when fired upon, and blocking air strikes if civilians are believed to be in the area.
In a letter to troops released Sunday, Petraeus tried to take a middle path on the issue, telling soldiers that there can be rules of engagement that allow them to finish the fight while minimizing civilian casualties.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We must also continue our emphasis on reducing the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum. We must never forget that the decisive terrain in Afghanistan is the human terrain,Ã¢â‚¬Â Petraeus wrote. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Protecting those we are here to help nonetheless does require killing, capturing, or turning the insurgents. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦[A]s you and our Afghan partners on the ground get into tough situations, we must employ all assets to ensure your safety, keeping in mind, again, the importance of avoiding civilian casualties.Ã¢â‚¬Â
This video is from Fox's Fox News Sunday, broadcast July 4, 2010.