US may make concessions on night raids in Afghanistan

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • kush dragon says:

    Time to leave. It’s becoming impossible for ISAF to perform its job there. What are we still there for, to present living target practice to the Taliban?

  • Mr. Nobody says:

    Ok, so at what point do we give up the game? What is the state of Afghanistan’s judicial system? We have to attack the entrenched corruptionof the judges before we even think of putting our intelligence and assaulters lives on the line. Otherwise, I think it’s time to go and leave the Afghans to their own demise. Sure, we will be back but I’d rather come back on my own terms.

  • Gitmo-Joe says:

    Its nice to see us finally begin solving some of these thorny problems. I have two additional suggestions;
    1- Require our special forces to enter the target village marching in formation singing the Afghan national anthem.
    2- Before entering the target house require our special forces to perform a series of Afghan ethnic dances in the street outside using the traditional bells, whistles and tambourines.
    If we could make these small additions I think we stand a good chance of turning this thing around.

  • Vyom says:

    From Next year onwards it will be mandatory to serve a show cause notice to the owner of the house to be raided, at least 24 hours before to ask him why his house should not be raided…………

  • gwb says:

    This sounds like it’s turning into a domestic law enforcement operation now. Time to bring out the combat troops, and let the Afghans start running their hell hole country. Any ROE that involves local “judges” will remove any hope of a surprise strike and put ISAF troops in more jeopardy.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Isn’t this similar to the procedures successfully implemented in Iraq?

  • mike merlo says:

    At ‘first’ glance this appears counterintuitive but it should be noted that most if not all the ‘night raids’ are accompanied by counter parts from Afghanistan’s NDS & Military Intelligence. Much in the same way US law enforcement encounter’s impediment’s with it’s warrant ‘applications process’ so to does Afghanistan judiciary present similar conundrum’s.
    Whatever reservation(s) may be harbored there are 4 principal’s that inextricably bind the US & Afghan Intelligence communities:
    1) the necessity of neutralizing the Taliban desire to organize & challenge the State through violence,
    2) destruction of the militarized element’s of the Taliban & it’s ‘local/regional’ allies actively seeking transnational relation’s with paramilitary component’s of the Islamic Internationale
    3) destruction of elements of the Islamic Internationale actively pursuing presence within a militarized Taliban,
    4) identification of State player’s attempting to co-opt the above & application of appropriate ‘tools & tactic’s’ to dissuade such behavior(s).
    Provided the judiciary is able to maintain it’s independence & integrity & their security is iron clad this ‘development’ should be welcomed.

  • Dave says:

    I’d like to know exactly who in the Obama administration is considering this, and who approves it.
    Because this would not only result in the target disappearing in almost all cases, it would most assuredly result in our special operations troops walking into IEDs and ambushes.
    If you can get administration names, Bill, I’m sure the surviving families would like to know.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    This is unnacceptable in IMHO. I don’t trust the Afghanis operational security and I am afraid this stuff would get leaked by corrupt judges or incompent ones. We should have the freedom to do Spec Ops night raids OUR WAY PERIOD! If that clown Karzai doesen’t like it, tell him to find another superpower to defend him…oh wait there are no other superpowers on the planet, guess he better do his best to make us happy if he wants to keep Kabul and his life!

  • Jay says:

    Are you kidding me. When I was there in 2009 I was there working for 9th ANA Corps Commander training their RCC companies. And we were set up for and Ambush my an ANA Infantry Colonel changing our destination for a checkpoint. There are no trustworthy systems over there if we do this MANY ISAF soldiers will die. Because of the terrorist applying pressure to those judges. It is sickening.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    Jay- you are right on brother. When I was “In Country” with the Marine Special Operations Regiment (MSOR), we were conducting ambushes and night raids on Taliban and Al Qaida positions and safe houses. And we were very carefull about Op Security. We worked with the SEALs and the British SBS and only us and those units knew where we were going and what we were doing. Our Afghan counterparts were not even told untill the last minute, because quite frankly…we did not trust them all that much. I shudder to think what willl happen to our Spec Ops teams if they are compromised by some corrupt judge with Taliban sympathies…this is no way to fight or win a war!

  • Uninformed Comment says:

    The Night Raids, while obviously useful to the broader counter-insurgency effort, could be utilized far more effectively as a intimidation tool. In Malaysia, British troops announced militant’s activities on loudspeakers, reminding people they were aware of the activities and threatening further arrest if they continue. Such a strategy – informing militants that their activities are known to ISAF and requesting they turn themselves in would likely be more successful in many cases;


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