As NATO’s mission in Afghanistan continues its downward spiral, the US is considering allowing Afghans a degree of control over the controversial night raids, which are conducted by special operations forces. The US is considering allowing Afghan judges to issue arrest warrants for suspects, according to the Wall Street Journal:
The Obama administration is offering to cede some control over nighttime missions into Afghan village homes, U.S. officials say, in a bid to ease tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that took on new urgency with the deadly rampage in a Kandahar village last week.
The administration’s most significant proposed concession on night raids would subject the operations to advance review by Afghan judges, U.S. military officials said. One option under discussion in U.S.-Afghan talks would require warrants to be issued before operations get the green light.
Presumably, for an Afghan judge to review the case and issue a warrant, the judge would have to look at classified intelligence in order to make the determination. The special operations teams are not likely to be willing to share intelligence collection findings and methods with Afghan judges (and their staffs), especially given the trust deficit that exists between NATO personnel and Afghans. And justifiably so: in many areas of Afghanistan, especially in the east, Afghan security forces have struck deals with the Taliban, while Afghan security personnel routinely attack and kill ISAF forces. And if the Taliban and allied groups know who is on the ISAF target list, and how they got there, such knowledge would severely compromise operations designed to capture or kill them.
Also, requiring a warrant from an Afghan judge may create another obstacle that will impede intelligence-driven raids. As we’ve documented several times at LWJ, many follow-up raids are launched based on intelligence gathered within 24 hours of a first raid. Often, the quick exploitation of intelligence from a previous night’s raid can make the difference between success and failure.
If the US were to make such a concession to the Afghan government, it would further tie the US’s hands in an Afghan mission that increasingly looks unwinnable. Given that ISAF is rapidly drawing down its forces, abandoning counterinsurgency operations, and turning over large areas of the battlespace to Afghan forces, the so-called night raids are one of the only offensive weapons left for ISAF to use.
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