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Calamitous Night Raids Continue as Torch Passes to Afghan Army

Element of Surprise Deadly for Civilians

Common Dreams staff

US forces have begun training Afghan soldiers to take over the much contested 'night raids' in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been a continuous opponent of night raids as civilian causalities are more than common during such operations. In a period of 10 months in 2010/2011, night raids caused up to 1,500 civilian deaths.

Reuters reports:

The raids enrage entire communities and fuel anti-American sentiment and are politically calamitous for Karzai and his government. Joint Afghan-U.S. raids began in 2009 to try to dampen public opposition.

But Karzai last year told a meeting of leaders from across the country that unless night raids by NATO forces ended, he would not conclude a strategic agreement covering the presence of U.S. soldiers in the country beyond 2014.

In a compromise, Afghan defense officials decided in late December to form special forces -- benignly named the Afghan Partnering Unit (APU) -- to take over raids on private homes as soon as possible, with members selected from commando units. [...]

And in a bid to make the raids less provocative, Azimi said commanders were also trying to recruit female commandos to enter homes and search areas often reserved for women. writes:

Afghanistan's army is preparing 'elite soldiers' to adopt one of the most unpopular tactics of the US occupation forces: the night raid. The troops are training to launch the same nighttime searches of homes, in which many civilians were killed.

“Be ready to attack! You attack the enemy and don’t give them a chance to raise their heads to fight you,” the commander shouts over the sound of automatic gunfire. This appears to be materially the same strategy as the US forces, which has led to massive civilian tolls as raiding forces shoot first and ask questions later — if ever.

...But the US has insisted it will continue its own night raids, with the Karzai government’s own added to the mix. Afghanistan’s civilians have little reason to celebrate this hat-tip to “sovereignty.”

Gareth Porter had written a thorough report on night raids in November:

U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) killed well over 1,500 civilians in night raids in less than 10 months in 2010 and early 2011, analysis of official statistics on the raids released by the U.S.-NATO command reveals.

That number would make U.S. night raids by far the largest cause of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan. [...]

With very rare exceptions, night raids target only individuals rather than groups. They are carried out at night because they are aimed at catching the individual at home asleep and therefore taken completely by surprise.

...a minimum of 1,588 people (2,844 total killed minus the 1,256 targets in the lethal raids) were killed in the raids even though they weren’t targeted. Not every one of the untargeted individuals killed in night raids was a noncombatant civilian. But the socio-cultural and physical setting of the raids guarantees that the percentage of civilians in that total is extremely high.


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