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Chicken or the Egg?


September 10, 2009—The number of munitions expended for US/NATO operations in Afghanistan has dropped compared to this time last year by about 30 percent. Some news reports attributed the drop to the new tactical directive aimed at reducing civilian casualties that was issued by new US/International Security Assistance Force commander, US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command June 15, replacing US Army Gen. David McKiernan. NATO released the directive the first week in July. The June 2009 tally shows that US/NATO strike aircraft fired less than half the number of munitions than they had in June 2008. Although the pace of operations against a resurgent Taliban has remained high, it seems reasonable to infer that commanders had already reduced their call for air strikes in line with earlier direction to limit civilian casualties and are continuing to be more selective under McChrystal. If you look back to the first three months of 2009, munitions expenditures were less than in 2008—for January and February, almost a 50 percent drop. So far, only April and May 2009 surpassed the previous year at that same time.