Controversial US Night Raids up 300% in Afghanistan

August 14th, 2011 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & Tony Capaccio / Bloomberg – 2011-08-14 16:46:42

US Raids in Afghanistan Triple Since 2009

US Raids in Afghanistan Triple Since 2009
Jason Ditz /

(August 12, 2011) — New figures released by NATO reveal a dramatic increase in the number of US commando raids across Afghanistan since the ouster of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who served as commander of the war in 2009 and early 2010 before being replaced by now-CIA Chief David Petraeus.

In 2009, NATO launched a total of 675 raids, while in 2010, which included Petraeus’ takeover and backtracking on McChrystal’s efforts ot reduce civilian tolls, the entire year saw 1,780 raids. Already this year, the number is 1,879.

NATO spokesmen praised the use of such raids, saying that “even if the primary target is not killed or captured on these missions 35% of those times the next closest associate or another individual directly linked to the target is killed or captured.”

Of course “another individual directly linked to” isn’t necessarily a guilty individual, and NATO’s night raids have been hugely unpopular for their tendancy to raid seemingly random houses and kill innocent civilians. In one raid, US troops actually attacked the home of a member of parliament, killing a relative of hers.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly demanded that the US end the policy of night raids against civilian homes, something which NATO officials have rejected, insisting that the UN mandate allows them to launch whichever attacks they want without Afghan government permission.

Afghanistan Raids by US Commandos Almost Triple Since 2009, NATO Says
Tony Capaccio / Bloomberg

(August 12, 2011) — The US military in Afghanistan has nearly tripled since 2009 the frequency of commando raids launched against Taliban or insurgent groups, according to NATO figures. This year, from January 1 through this week, the US — with Afghanistan and NATO assistance — has launched 1,879 missions, with 916 “targets” killed or captured, according to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

That compares with 1,780 missions for all of last year, with 825 targets killed or captured, and 675 missions in 2009, when 306 adversaries were killed or captured, according to a NATO spokesman, US Army Major Jason Waggoner.

“Even if the primary target is not killed or captured on these missions, 35% of those times, the next closest associate or another individual directly linked to the target is killed or captured,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

Roughly 7,000 of the 61,000 personnel under the US Special Operations Command are in Afghanistan today. Special operations forces “continue to apply steady pressure throughout the entire country from the north down to Helmand, with a majority of the focus on the eastern beltway,” Waggoner said.

They target senior leaders, fighters and facilitators in both the Taliban and Haqqani insurgent network within Afghanistan, he said. The network has attacked US forces in at least six Afghan provinces, including the capital, Kabul.

Commando Deaths
Interest in the size and scope of US special operations forces in Afghanistan has escalated since a US CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down Aug. 6, killing the 30 US personnel aboard — 17 Navy SEALS, five sailors assigned to SEAL units, five Army pilots and three Air Force special tactics commandos. The crash also killed an interpreter and seven Afghan troops who were working with the Americans.

Those fatalities brought to 44 the number of US special operations troops killed in Afghanistan this year, up from 40 last year, 33 in 2009 and 220 overall since late 2001, when small teams of US Army Green Berets landed in Afghanistan and worked with CIA paramilitary teams to temporarily rout the Taliban, according to figures.

The increased raids reflect a greater number of commandos in Afghanistan as Iraq operations wind down, following the increased use of conventional forces for securing the population under President Barack Obama’s troop “surge.”

Mission Advocates
“With the surge, it made sense to have the general-purpose forces assume more responsibility for securing the population and to have more SOF released for these missions,” said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington-based policy research group. “The missions have been generally successful — so we keep conducting them,” he said.

Inside the Pentagon, Michael Vickers, an advocate of strikes by special operations forces, has risen in influence from a 1980s-era Green Beret and CIA paramilitary specialist to an analyst at the CSBA to assistant secretary of defense for special operations to his current position as the Defense Department’s undersecretary for intelligence.

“Strikes by special forces are absolutely critical” if the US-lead coalition is going to defeat the Taliban or force their more moderate elements to reach a lasting political accommodation, said Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Destroying or weakening the Taliban’s key leadership “simply can’t be done by defeating their forces in the field or through drone attacks in Pakistan,” he said.

The near-tripling of missions, combined with conventional military successes and drone strikes, “has to have had a major impact on leaders and key fighters,” Cordesman said.

Commando Coordination
The increased missions are also the product of better coordination between the intelligence and commando communities highlighted by the May 1 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. US intelligence agencies and elite special-operations units in Afghanistan work in small groups that consolidate and analyze real-time information from informants, satellites and eavesdropping on top Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.

Post-9/11 “tactical cooperation grew and was expanded and refined” under US Army General Stanley McChrystal, “whose hunter-killer” teams in Iraq were replicated when he took over in 2009 command of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, New York Times reporters Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker write in a new book, Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.

The pace of the “intelligence-driven operations skyrocketed” with more than 12 raids a night supported by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, they write.

Resilient Foe
“That kind of seamless operational cooperation became common on a smaller scale in Yemen, Pakistan and other shadowy battlegrounds,” they write in their book, to be published August 16. Brian Katulis, a national security specialist at the Center for American Progress, a policy group in Washington, said “the targeted strikes, combined with increased drone attacks across the border in Pakistan, demonstrate the Obama administration’s attempts to marginalize the insurgency.”

“It’s a much more aggressive approach than you saw in the first eight years of the war,” Katulis said in an Aug. 10 interview. “The question is whether this leads to greater overall stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Civilian deaths haven’t decreased this year, Katulis said. While the vast majority are caused by insurgents and not the US-led coalition, they reflect on the fragility of security overall, he said.

“Despite the increase in operations, the insurgency seems not to relent,” said Brookings Institution defense analyst Michael O’Hanlon. “On balance I think we are weakening them, but less so than I would have expected given their resilience and ability to regenerate.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at
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NATO Spurns Karzai Call to Stop Attacking Civilian Homes
Jason Ditz /

(May 31, 2011) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has once again delivered a warning to NATO in the wake of deadly NATO air strikes over the weekend, cautioning that the alliance must stop bombing civilian homes in Afghanistan. NATO, for its part, spurned the demand, saying that attacking Afghan homes was “necessary” and would continue going forward. They also claimed that the Afghan government has no right under the UN mandate for Afghanistan to forbid attacks on civilian targets.

Former Afghan General Helauddin Helal concurred with this, saying it was “not realistic” for Karzai to demand the end such attacks, saying that the UN mandate gave the troops the right to “conduct any kind of attack.”

Karzai warned that the continuation of such attacks would put NATO at the risk of being “viewed as an occupying force.” This is perhaps the least of NATO’s concerns, particularly a decade into the occupation of Afghanistan, but points to a growing discontent at the way they carry on this occupation.

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