The top U.S. general in Afghanistan promised President Hamid Karzai that he would tone down aggressive tactics in sweeps for Taliban-led insurgents and ensure that U.S. troops are more sensitive to Afghans' conservative ways, the military said Monday.
Already fending off allegations of prisoner abuse, Lt. Gen. David Barno agreed that his troops would try to smash in fewer doors and handcuff fewer villagers in an effort to ease resentment and foster goodwill, a military spokesman said.
"The coalition recognizes that its forces are guests in Afghanistan," Maj. Scott Nelson said.
Local leaders have long complained of heavily armed U.S. soldiers and allied Afghan militiamen descending on villages in the dead of night, leaving behind a trail of wrecked property, wrongful detentions and trampled customs.
Anti-American leaflets this year depicted a male U.S. soldier searching under a woman's all-encompassing burqa, something that would be deeply offensive to Afghanistan's conservative Islamic mores.
The military previously had bristled at criticism of search tactics, pointing out that Afghanistan is still a war zone more than two years after the ouster of the Taliban movement.
But Barno agreed to soften methods after Karzai summoned him to his palace in Kabul, the capital, last Wednesday.
Barno said his troops would now consult local officials and tribal elders before launching sweeps and would first get elders to ask residents to open their doors, to avoid having troops kick their way in. Troops also will receive training in "local customs and courtesies."