Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

Afghan Military to Take Over Night Raids

Publisher Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Author Mina Habib, Hijratullah Ekhtyar
Publication Date 25 April 2012
Citation / Document Symbol ARR Issue 430
Cite as Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Afghan Military to Take Over Night Raids, 25 April 2012, ARR Issue 430, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Following an agreement transferring responsibility for "night raid" operations from NATO-led units to Afghanistan's national forces, some observers in the country have questioned whether the army is ready to take on this difficult role.

Afghan minister of defence Rahim Wardak signed a memorandum of understanding on the issue on April 8 with the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, General John Allen.

The agreement says that from now on, night-time missions to search civilian houses for insurgents will be conducted by the Afghan military "in cooperation with United States special forces", and in compliance with Afghan national law.

Raids on homes are seen as an unacceptable violation of privacy, and together with civilian casualties they have alienated many Afghans from their own government as well as the NATO force. President Hamid Karzai pledged to end foreign-run night raids when he addressed the Loya Jirga, a broad-based national assembly, in November.

The Afghan government says the new arrangement marks a step forward in its strategic partnership with the US.

Defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi assured IWPR that there would be no pause in operations while the handover took place.

In response to the move, the Taleban issued a statement saying the new strategy would not affect them.

"The Taleban strongly condemn the memorandum of understanding on night raids," it said, adding the practice was simply a legalised way of harassing people.

Experts say that in practice, it will be difficult for Afghan forces to carry out such operations. Defence expert and retired general Atiqullah Amarkhel said they lacked the intelligence-gathering capacity that US forces had.

"The US currently has intelligence operations all over Afghanistan and acts forcefully, whereas this government has failed even to prevent the enemy from infiltrating its own security forces," he said. "Our security officials are bluffing. Given that the Americans have superior equipment and resources to those of Afghan forces, it is obvious that the Afghans are going to face many problems."

Azimi said the agreement stipulated that "international forces will provide the Afghan government with intelligence".

Recent insurgent attacks in Kabul and other cities have done little to boost faith in the army and police. Gunfire in the capital continued for some 17 hours, and despite praise for the way Afghan security forces fought once the fighting started, questions were asked about how the insurgents got into a supposedly well-defended city. (See Afghan Forces Criticised After Kabul Battles.)

Jafar Haand, a political science student in Nangarhar province, said he believed the raids showed that Afghan forces were not yet ready to take on responsibility for night-time operations.

"If the Afghan security forces can't stop an attack by dozens of insurgents armed with both light and heavy weapons, carried out in broad daylight in the country's capital, how are they going to fight against the armed opposition at night?" he asked.

"The Afghan security forces don't have modern military equipment, and in addition, they are not truly national in composition. There are linguistic, ethnic and regional divisions among them that could lead them to act in a biased manner and cause civilian casualties."

Some experts say the wording of the memorandum on night raids is ambiguous and impractical.

Political analyst Wahid Mozhda noted that each operation will now require a court order before it can go ahead, making it too cumbersome to work .

He also pointed to a lack of oversight for dealing with any abuses or violations that occurred in the course of night raids, and said the time-line set out in the memorandum was unclear.

Siamak Herawi, deputy spokesman for President Karzai, rebuffed these concerns, insisting that the Afghan military was capable of conducting this kind of operation, and that the authorities would address any violations as and when they arose.

"The [Afghan] special forces are well-trained, and they will get more training," he said. "They will also be well-equipped. The defence ministry has the right resources for them, and if we need more gear, we can call on the international community."

Herawi added, "The public has a right to air its views on such matters, but the reality is that the Afghan security forces have the capacity to conduct such operations."

Mangal Sherzad, a lecturer in law and politics at Nangarhar university, said he had no faith that real authority over the night raids would ever be transferred to Afghan forces.

"The memorandum of understandanding is just play-acting to calm the Afghans down," he said. "I believe that the night raids will still be conducted by the Americans – but that henceforth, they will hold the Afghans responsible for any crimes they commit."

Copyright notice: © Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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