Special Forces Night Raids in Afghanistan

United States Special Operations forces, together with Afghan security, regularly uses night raids to curb and destroy Taliban insurgency networks. But the raids remain controversial, in no small part due to repeated stories of abuse. Such clandestine tactics will persist long after American forces withdraw and perhaps will only increase as the military re-focuses its mission from ‘nation building’ to what can only be described as targeted assassinations – whether from unmanned drones or special forces.

The New York Times describes their deployment, which average 300 a month. Hundreds have been killed and thousands detaned in the past 18 months, NATO and Afghan officials said.

They remain devestating to the Taliban insurgency.

“Those night raids have broken the back of the Taliban,” said Abdul Satar Mirzokhel, deputy governor of Helmand Province for three years until this spring. “Most of their targets were very precise, aimed at the right people in the right places. If there were mistakes, they were very few.”

President Hamid Karzai remains distressed and openly critical over their use, which are carried out under a veil of secrecy, bringing the ire of General Patreaus.

Civilian accounts vary. Last Novemeber, American Special Operations in one exaple in Mian, Kandahar, killed eight civilians including two clerics. American and Afghan forces arrived by helicopters at 11 p.m. and stayed for 24 hours. 60 year old Muhammad Younus said he was so badly beaten he could not work for 20 days, with the bodies of two of his brothers shpwing bullet and burn wounds. The special operations in Mian incensed the wider community and official ISAF denials brought condemnation. Military officials say they ‘gether their target 80 percent of the time’, even if there is no way to independently assess those figures.

The United Nations examined a number of night raids from 2010 in four districts in Kandahar, where the insurgency was intense, noting an “excessive use of force, ill treatment, death and injury to civilians and damage to property has occurred in some cases involving Special Forces.”

Afghands are deeply offended by the raids, which are not just culturally insensitive but extremely intimidating. Coalition forces insist that most raids are conducted using a ‘soft knock’ – a loudspeaker calling for people to come out. Yet there are numerous accounts of forced entry and cases of men being shot in their beds next to their wives.

Two weeks prior to Mian, American forces raided the house of a Taliban member and killed him and his wife, leaving four small children alone. “We are trying to find relatives to take care of them,” one police chief said. “It turns people against the government and the foreign forces”.

Gen. Jamaluddin Sayed, the Afghan Army commander of the Zabul province, said villagers were  joining the local police program to keep the Taliban out but also prevent raids on their houses!

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