Report casts doubt on effectiveness of controversial Afghan ‘night raids’

Part of the executive summary from the Open Society Foundations and Liason Office report, available here.

Night-time kill and capture operations (“night raids”) by international military have been one of the most controversial tactics in Afghanistan. They are as valued by the international military as they are reviled by Afghan communities. Night raids have been associated with the death, injury, and detention of civilians, and have sparked enormous backlash among Afghan communities. The Afghan government and the Afghan public have repeatedly called for an end to night raids. International military say they have addressed many of the past concerns with night raids, including improved intelligence and conduct. They argue that night raids are a way to reduce civilian casualties and are an essential part of their military strategy. The Open Society Foundations and The Liaison Office published an in depth study of night raids in February 2010.

International military conducted, on average, 19 night raids per night—a total of 1700 night raids—in the three-month period from roughly December 2010 to February 2011, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).ISAF has not released more up-tod ate figures; however, interviews conducted for this report suggest a continuing trend of large numbers of night raids, possibly at even higher rates. In April 2011, a senior U.S. military advisor told the Open Society Foundations that as many as 40 raids might take place on a given night across Afghanistan.

International military officials argue that the increase in night raids has been their most successful strategy in the last year, although they have offered no evidence to support these claims. They argue that absent the ability to continue night raids, insurgent attacks would increase significantly. However, these touted gains have come at a high cost. The escalation in raids has taken the battlefield more directly into Afghan homes, sparking tremendous backlash among the Afghan population. The Afghan government calls the raids counter-productive to reconciliation efforts with insurgent groups, and a threat to Afghan sovereignty, given the limited Afghan control of night raids.  Complaints over night raids have marred Afghan relations with international partners, particularly the United States, and have complicated long-term strategic partnership discussions.

Reuters news story associated with the report here.

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