October 13th, 2010
10:48 AM ET

Air Force chief: Airstrikes still very much restricted

The marked increase in airstrikes in Afghanistan does not mean the more restrictive airstrike policy put in place by ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been rolled back by the new commander, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff said Tuesday.

"The truth of the matter is we have 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. And additional operations suggest that there will be additional air operations as well." Gen. Norton Schwartz said at the National Press Club.

In September there were 700 incidents of NATO airstrikes, up 172 percent from the previous year and one of the highest single-month totals of the entire nine-year war, according to Air Force data cited by Wired Magazine's Danger Room blog.

"Remember that this is a joint undertaking and so the fact that there has been an increase in such activity should be no surprise. It isn't," Schwartz said.

McChrystal installed rules sharply restricting the use of U.S. airstrikes last year, after the high number of civilians being killed increasingly spurred the anger of the Afghan government and citizens.

But some troops on the ground complained about the directives, saying they unduly hampered troops from defending themselves in favor of protecting civilian populations.

McChrystal's directives also limited the use of night raids and other firepower against civilians.

The new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has since issued new directives to clarify the rules but did not reverse the airstrike policy.

– CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report

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