August 1st, 2010
04:26 PM ET

Petraeus' rules: Fight Taliban, get to know the locals

Fight the Taliban "relentlessly." Don't tolerate corruption. Drink "lots of tea" with the locals.

Those admonitions are among the two dozen guidelines for counterinsurgency warfare that Gen. David Petraeus issued to U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan on Sunday. In his first major public pronouncement since taking command in early July, Petraeus urged American troops and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to learn and adapt to the culture of Afghanistan while battling the Taliban insurgents and their allies.

"The decisive terrain is the human terrain," Petraeus wrote. "The people are the center of gravity. Only by providing them security and earning their trust and confidence can the Afghan government and ISAF prevail."

Petraeus led the 2007-2008 campaign to stabilize Iraq after years of
insurgent and sectarian warfare following the U.S. invasion of 2003. Some of the steps he took there - ordering troops to work in closely with local allies in outposts close to the people, patrol on foot and without sunglasses and cultivate ties with the local population - are included in Sunday's four-page order.

"Earn the people's trust, talk to them, ask them questions and learn
about their lives," he wrote. Coalition troops should be "a good guest," learn the local history and "make sure you have the full story."

"Don't be a pawn in someone else's game," he wrote. "Spend time, listen, consult and drink lots of tea."

Petraeus called on American and NATO troops to "Pursue the enemy
relentlessly" and "seek out and eliminate" insurgents who threaten Afghan civilians. But he also urged coalition forces to fight "with discipline" and be careful to avoid civilian casualties.

"If we kill civilians or damage their property in the course of our
operations, we will create more enemies than our operations eliminate," he wrote. "That's exactly what the Taliban want. Don't fall into their trap."

He urged his troops to aggressively fight the Taliban by being "first
with the truth," acknowledging setbacks and failures but highlighting the "extremist" and "oppressive" nature of the enemy. Allied forces should "Hang their barbaric actions like millstones around their necks," he wrote.

And in a country where corruption is endemic, the Petraeus guidelines press allied forces to be mindful of where coalition funds go and to help Afghans "confront, isolate, pressure and defund" crooked elements.

"The Taliban are not the only enemy of the people," he wrote. "The people are also threatened by inadequate governance, corruption and abuse of power - recruiters for the Taliban." Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pledged to root out corruption, and allied troops should "work with our allied partners to help turn his words into reality."

Petraeus has taken command at a time when the nearly 9-year-old war is the subject of fierce debate in the United States and in many of the countries that have contributed troops to the mission. He replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was sacked after Rolling Stone magazine published disparaging comments about the Obama administration's civilian leadership by the general and some of his aides.

A highly publicized offensive in the southern town of Marjah has turned out to be tougher than expected, Petraeus acknowledged in June. 

Meanwhile, the Netherlands finished pulling its troops out of southern
Afghanistan's Uruzgan province Sunday after four years and 24 combat deaths, nearly six months after an impasse over whether to extend their commitment brought down the Dutch government.

- CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Civilian deaths • Marjah • Petraeus • Taliban
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