NATO plans to use smaller bombs as part of a change of tactics aimed at halting civilian casualties that threatens to undermine support in the fight against the Taliban, according to a report in the British Financial Times newspaper on Monday.
In an exclusive interview with the newspaper, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer acknowledged that the rising civilian casualties had hurt NATO.
"We realize that, if we cannot neutralize our enemy today without harming civilians, our enemy will give us the opportunity tomorrow," De Hoop Scheffer said.
De Hoop Scheffer said that General Dan McNeill, the commander of the 35,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, had told troops to hold off attacking Taliban fighters in situations where civilians would be at risk.
"If that means going after a Taliban not on Wednesday but on Thursday, we will get him then," he added.
De Hoop Scheffer also said that the NATO was planning to use smaller bombs in certain instances.
NATO was "working with weapons load on aircraft to reduce collateral damage," he said, adding that it was impossible to entirely avoid civilian casualties.
"If you put a 250kg bomb rather than a 500kg bomb on the plane, that could make a huge amount of difference," he said.
Earlier in July, De Hoop Scheffer agreed to do more to prevent innocent casualties in the conflict-torn country, in the face of mounting outrage over the civilian death toll because of its military campaign in Afghanistan. NATO would also try and reduce civilian casualties by improving its procedures and coordination with other forces operating in Afghanistan.
Since the start of the year, an estimated 600 civilians have been killed, more than half of them by international or Afghan forces.
The toll has led to growing domestic protests, demanding the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai's resignation and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
Afghanistan has seen a strong resurgence of attacks by Taliban Islamists whose government was toppled by U.S. led forces in November 2001.
NATO is pressing its members to commit more troops to defeat the Taliban.