Afghanistan Quietly Lifts Ban on Nighttime Raids

Nov. 23, 2014 The New York Times 


The government of the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has quietly lifted the ban on night raids by special forces troops that his predecessor had imposed. 
Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume the raids in 2015, and in some cases the raids will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory role, according to Afghan military officials as well as officials with the American-led military coalition. 
Night raids were banned for the most part in 2013 by President Hamid Karzai. Their resumption is likely to be controversial among Afghans, for whom any intrusion into private homes is considered offensive. Mindful of the bad name that night raids have, the American military has renamed them “night operations.” 
Two Afghan army generals in some of the country’s most active combat zones — Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in southern Afghanistan — said in interviews on Saturday that they welcomed the lifting of a ban on night raids, and the possibility of American support for them, adding that they expected the raids to resume in 2015. 
Some 200 Afghan special forces troops have recently been transferred to Kandahar and have begun training in night raid techniques, according to Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps in Kandahar. 
“We need strong backing of foreign forces during night raids, the helicopters and night vision goggles, GPS equipment, and better guidance,” he said. “Now we have noticed free movement of the Taliban, they are moving around at night and passing messages and recruiting people for fighting, and the only solution to stop their movement is night raids.” 
The first vice president of Afghanistan, Abdul Rashid Dostum, said on Sunday: “The discussions over the night raids are underway; soon they will begin. I welcome this. The extension of the American combat mission is a good move, I am for this and I expect the Afghan people to support it.” 
Mr. Dostum said that while there would be no independent night raids conducted by coalition forces, “I support joint operations and welcome them — they will have a great impact on the morale of the enemy. They are practical, and soon these operations will begin.” 
Some Afghans are worried about resumption of the raids. 
“The Taliban will be going into other people’s houses, and the Americans will be behind them again, and there will be losses again of women and children when Taliban shoot from people’s houses, and in reaction the foreigners will bomb or kill them,” said Haji Abdullah Jan, a local shura leader in the Maiwand District of Kandahar Province. “I am not in favor of night raids because we have experienced such huge losses from them during those past years.”