UK troops 'told not to shoot first'
02 July 2012
British troops in Afghanistan have been told they must wait until enemies fire weapons directly at them before they are allowed to shoot back, limiting their ability to shoot first in order to protect themselves, according to reports.
The Ministry of Defence has denied claims that the rules of engagement (RoE) with the enemy have changed, but a 'tactical directive' issued by American ISAF commander General John Allen reportedly includes new instructions aimed at reducing civilian casualties.
Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said the directive left soldiers "frustrated and vulnerable" and may have been responsible for a rise in ISAF fatalities caused by enemy gunshots.
"The Taliban can move as they please, even when heavily armed, and we're not interfering with them," he said.
"Currently there is a reluctance to engage and a preference for a policing approach. The rise in fatal wounds from gunshots comes as no surprise. I feel deeply for the soldiers placed in this perilous position."
An International Security Assistance Force spokesman said: "We have conducted a number of conferences devoted to the reduction of civilian casualties. These conferences have been a forum for passing tactics, techniques and procedures to the operational level and into practice.
"General Allen recently ensured all commanders reviewed and certified their troops on the updated tactical directives, with an emphasis on the prevention of civilian casualties."
An MoD spokesman said that RoE had not changed and that "our forces continue to have the freedom they require to operate in support of increasingly effective Afghan security forces".
"We have always been very clear, as has ISAF, that our troops go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties," the spokesman said.
"Recent amendments to the ISAF tactical directive reflect that commitment, but in no way limit the use of fire support in situations of self-defence."