New Afghan govt mulls lifting ban on night raids – with US participation

New Afghan govt mulls lifting ban on night raids – with US participation
As US-led NATO forces get the green light for conducting military operations beyond the 2014 deadline, Kabul has reportedly lifted the ban on controversial night raids in the ongoing battle against Taliban insurgents.

Since the start of the Afghan War in 2001, many Afghan civilians have suffered the harrowing experience of having their doors broken down in the middle of the night by NATO and Afghan soldiers hunting for Taliban militants.

In 2011, however, and despite the objections of US military commanders, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai slapped a ban on these flagrant violations of privacy. In February 2013, he even forbade the Afghan military from requesting American aerial support.

READ MORE:US, NATO war crimes against thousands of Afghan civilians ignored - Amnesty

But with Karzai now out of the picture, the Obama administration is quietly reasserting the US military’s role in Afghanistan, first by declaring a “more expansive” participation in the battle against insurgents, and now – due to the new 'US-friendly' Afghan President Ashraf Ghani - by securing the right to carry out controversial night raids.

Abdul Rashid Dostum, the first vice president, confirmed that “discussions over the night raids are underway; soon they will begin. I welcome this,” the New York Times quoted him as saying on Sunday.

He also called the extension of the American combat mission in Afghanistan “a good move.”

Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps in Kandahar, emphasized the importance of night raids in the fight against Taliban forces.

Reuters / Andrew Burton
“We need strong backing of foreign forces during night raids, the helicopters and night vision goggles, GPS equipment, and better guidance,” Hameed said, as quoted by the NYT.

“Now we have noticed free movement of the Taliban, they are moving around at night and passing messages and recruiting people for fighting, and the only solution to stop their movement is night raids.”

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, refused to give information on the status of the night raids.

“It is above my authority to comment,” the general said, as quoted by the US daily newspaper. “The government or National Security Council can comment on it. I cannot.”

In light of Obama’s secretive move to increase US military involvement in Afghanistan, and despite his pledge to end military involvement in 2014, observers are questioning what sort of role the United States will play in the event that night raids are reinstated.

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One Western military official suggested a limited advisory role for the United States, while the Afghan National Army performs the dirty work.

“Night operations are something the Afghans will be doing in a much more targeted way, the way they were trained to do but were held back under Karzai,” the official told the paper. “We’re not going to be doing that, but there are going to be training missions with advisers along.”

But since the success of night raids is largely determined by a vast array of sophisticated military assets, many of which the Afghan army lacks – including fighter jets, drones and night-vision equipment – many fear a much broader role for US forces in any future night raids.

AFP Photo / Wakil Kohsar
A local from Kandahar Province spoke on his fears that more innocent people would be killed with the resumption of the night raids.

“The Taliban will be going into other people’s houses, and the Americans will be behind them again, and there will be losses again of women and children when Taliban shoot from people’s houses, and in reaction the foreigners will bomb or kill them,” Haji Abdullah Jan, a local shura leader told the NYT.

“I am not in favor of night raids because we have experienced such huge losses from them during those past years.”

Meanwhile, it has been reported that alleged war crimes committed by US and NATO troops in Afghanistan have gone uninvestigated, leaving the families of thousands of the victims without justice, Amnesty International said in an August report.

“Thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by US forces since the invasion, but the victims and their families have little chance of redress. The US military justice system almost always fails to hold its soldiers accountable for unlawful killings and other abuses,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.