Night raids to continue despite Afghan objections: NATO

Monday, December 6, 2010

KABUL - A NATO spokesman said Monday the alliance would continue night operations in the fight against Taliban insurgents, despite strong objections from Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai.

NATO spokesman General Josef Blotz said the night operations - conducted chiefly by special forces - were part of a wide range of tactics used by allied forces against the Taliban militants.

“In this concept night operations still have significance. They are still necessary,” Blotz told a press conference. “In 80 percent of all the night operations, there is not a single shot fired and since we look at the comprehensive strategy, we must not get distracted by focusing too much on night operations.”

Such raids by US Special Operations troops have increased sharply to about 200 a month, a five fold rise since 2009. In the past three months, the troops have reportedly killed or captured 368 insurgent leaders.

But night raids have also become a major area of contention between international forces and Karzai, who has long been publicly critical of the amount of civilian casualties.

Karzai last month said he and his people were getting impatient with a war that had been going on for nearly a decade, and, in particular, wanted to see “an end to nighttime raids by foreign troops on Afghan homes”.

“The Afghan people don’t like these raids. If there is any raid, it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws,” he told a newspaper.

Blotz said that US General David Petraeus had discussed the issue with Karzai in the days before the Lisbon Conference last month, where NATO formally announced its intention to leave Afghanistan by 2014.

“I think I can tell you that this case (night operations) has been settled satisfactorily for both sides and the bottom line is we still need night operations and we will carry on with it,” Blotz said.

He added that night raids are notified to the Afghan side and coordinated with the Afghan security forces who, in virtually all cases, conduct the operations with foreign troops.

Earlier this week, the WikiLeaks website released cables in which US diplomats in Afghanistan warned against night raids which had caused “growing resentment” and “dramatically eroded public support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan”.

The cables also showed that Karzai has been privately asking the Americans to change their tactics for the last two years and limit night raids.

Filed under: Terrorism

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