August 18, 2009:
While civilian casualties (of U.S. firepower) have sharply declined (often to single digits, per month), losses from Taliban activity had more than doubled. This is largely due to the increased use of roadside bombs. Last month, the Taliban used 828 of these weapons in Afghanistan, which was twice as many as they had used in July, 2008. Most of the casualties from these bombs are Afghan civilians. The new U.S. strategy is to greatly reduce civilian losses from American firepower, while the Taliban attacks on civilians increase. This is tricky, as the drug gangs have got a lot of the Afghan media on their payroll, or are simply too frightened to say anything negative about the Taliban. The foreign media don't consider the Taliban killing civilians to be news, while foreign troops doing so is always worth a headline or two.
Meanwhile, the policy is being exploited by the Taliban, who endeavor to keep civilians with them as much as possible, and let the foreign troops know it. This slows down operations against the Taliban, a lot. It does not make the Taliban invulnerable, but it is reducing their casualties, and giving them more opportunities to move around. For the moment, the troops are complaining. But if the new policy leads to more foreign troops getting killed, there could be morale problems as well.