, WASHINGTON, June 22 – US military commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal said he would sharply restrict the use of air strikes in an effort to reduce civilian deaths, The New York Times reported.
The newspaper said McChrystal noted in interviews over the past few days the use of air strikes during fire fights in Afghanistan would mostly be allowed only to prevent US and other coalition troops from being overrun.
Even in the case of active fire fights with Taliban forces, air strikes will be limited if the combat is taking place in populated areas, the report pointed out.
The restrictions will be especially tight in attacking houses and compounds where insurgents are believed to have taken cover, The Times noted.
"Air power contains the seeds of our own destruction if we do not use it responsibly," McChrystal told a group of his senior officers during a video conference last week, according to the paper. "We can lose this fight."
A report released by the military last week showed a failure by US forces to follow procedures in air strikes last month in Afghanistan "likely" caused the death of at least 26 civilians.
An internal investigation of a May 4 battle with Taliban insurgents in western Afghanistan found US air crews and ground troops acted in line with the laws of armed conflict but three air strikes by a B-1 bomber failed to adhere to US combat rules and orders.