At a meeting on Wednesday, President Hamid Karzai demanded an end to night raids – U.S. military operations in which Afghan homes are raided in the middle of the night – as one of the conditions for a security partnership with the U.S. that would keep American troops in Afghanistan through at least 2024.
The Pentagon, as it has for years, dismissed Karzai’s concerns that the night raids are abusive and often end in the killing or detention of Afghan civilians. “Frankly we share those same concerns,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby, “nobody wants to see innocent civilians hurt,” but night raids “are effective, and they don’t result in a great number of civilian casualties.”
Karzai expressed his concerns at a loya jirga, or a grand council, with tribal elders, while laying out his proposed conditions for signing deal with the U.S. to remain in the country for a decade beyond Obama’s superficial 2014 date for withdrawal.
A recent report by the Open Society Foundation found that Obama’s increased nighttime military raids have fueled resentment and undermined the mission to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan.
“An estimated 12 to 20 night raids now occur per night,” according to the report, “resulting in thousands of detentions per year, many of whom are non-combatants.” And many of the associated tactics, like “mass detention operations, holding entire villages for questioning on site for prolonged periods of time,” may violate international law, the report found.
Civilians bear the brunt of these hardline tactics. As one man from Nangarhar, interviewed in the report said, “They claim to be against terrorists, but what they are doing is terrorism. It spreads terror. It creates more violence.”
According to senior commanders in the Joint Special Operations Command, these various nightly raids get the wrong person 50 percent of the time. For a war-torn population living through a decade of US military occupation, ninety-two percent of whom have never even heard of 9/11, many regard the raids as counterproductive.