U.S. Hands Control Of Night Raids Over To Afghans

Among the many tactics employed by American forces in Afghanistan operations, none seems to have aroused more controversy among the Afghan public, military, and government. Indeed it was noted at the time that the attack that resulted in the death of 17 Afghan civilians reminded many Afghans of the night raids that U.S. forces have used against Taliban targets. There’s no doubt that these raids have been successful, and the tactical surprise of a nighttime raid is self-evident. However, there have been more than a few mishaps resulting in civilian deaths in recent years, leading Afghans from Hamid Karzai on down to call for a change in U.S. policy. Over the weekend, the U.S. military reached a new agreement with the government that essentially hands control of these raids over to the Afghan military and courts:

Accelerating the transition of military responsibility to the Afghan government, the United States agreed Sunday to hand control of special operations missions to Afghan forces, including night raids, relegating American troops to a supporting role and bringing the raids under Afghan judicial authority.

The deal clears the way for the two countries to move ahead with a more comprehensive partnership agreement that will establish the shape of American support to Afghanistan after the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline. And it resolves one of the most contentious issues for President Hamid Karzai, who faced intense domestic political pressure because of night raids’ deep unpopularity here, even as American commanders had insisted they were the linchpin of the military mission in Afghanistan.

(…)

The memorandum of understanding signed on Sunday gives Afghan forces the lead role in night raid operations against suspected insurgents, and also requires an Afghan court warrant within 72 hours of a raid. A warrant can be issued after a raid only in cases where the intelligence needed to be acted on immediately, otherwise it must be executed in advance, according to Afghan officials.

Under the terms of the agreement, Afghan forces can still call on American troops for help and authorize them to enter Afghan residences and private compounds. The agreement covers all night raids carried out by special operations forces. However, a small number of night operations are conducted under other auspices, including special C.I.A.-trained units, that are not covered by the agreement, military and civilian officials said.

American officials close to the negotiations said that under the agreement, an interministry Afghan command center with representatives of the Defense and Interior Ministries, as well as the National Directorate of Security — the Afghan intelligence agency — would review or develop information about potential targets in consultation with Americans, who would continue to provide extensive intelligence support.

The interministry group would then decide whether to go after a target and send Afghan special operations forces to carry out the raid. The Afghans can request American assistance at any point in the operation — for intelligence, for backup military support, air support, medical evacuation and post-operation intelligence gathering.

Afghan officials said that the Americans would not have the right to question detainees. Currently, they can question detainees and hold them indefinitely without trial. In practice, however, Americans might well be called on “to assist in an investigation,” said a United States official. The official emphasized that the relationship between Afghan and American troops was “not an adversarial one,” and United States officials did not appear to be worried that Americans would be denied access to detainees.

Several diplomats said that the most important aspect of the agreement, which goes into effect immediately, was that the two countries could take the next steps to complete the transition to Afghan control and allow foreign forces to leave the country.

“There’s still work to be done, but clearly we have some critical momentum now,” Ryan C. Crocker, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, said as he left the signing ceremony.

Stephen Green calls this a sign that the Taliban have won. Perhaps that’s true, I don’t know. I’ve thought that our mission in Afghanistan was a big muddled mess for years now and it only became more so when President Obama decided to double down on a counter-insurgency strategy and somehow turn the country into something it is never likely to become, at least not under current circumstances. With al Qaeda departed for other parts of the world, there doesn’t seem to me to be much of a point for us to be there.

There was going to come a day when we were going to hand over control to the Afghans, it may as well come sooner rather than later because, at this point, I just don’t see any point in staying there.

FILED UNDER: Asia, Military Affairs, National Security, Quick Takes, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    I’m not really clear on what you (and VodkaPundit) are complaining about… This is what it looks like when you turn things over to the locals and get the hell out of Dodge. Is the problem that we didn’t “win” or that we didn’t cut our losses years ago?

  2. @legion:

    For me the problem is that the President decided to increase the number of American troops and commit the nation to a pointless strategy for no good reason.

  3. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yeah, considering what we (and by “we”, I mean us regular folks without intel brief access) know now, it’s clear that, thanks to Karzai being a worthless putz, the mercenary nature of the local warlords, the total co-opting of Pakistan, etc., etc., the Surge never had a chance of working. The question is – how much of that was actually known before the Surge was committed to?

  4. James Joyner says:

    @legion:

    [T]hanks to Karzai being a worthless putz, the mercenary nature of the local warlords, the total co-opting of Pakistan, etc., etc., the Surge never had a chance of working. The question is – how much of that was actually known before the Surge was committed to?

    Every bit of that, actually. I was warning of exactly this at the time. I genuinely believe politics trumped strategy here, with Obama unable to be “the president who lost Afghanistan.” So, he doubled down so that he could at least argue he gave it his best shot.

  5. Keep in mind, I don’t condor a Taliban victory to be any kind of intolerable outcome. They’re only an enemy to us, to the degree they allow al Qaeda to thrive. And President Obama’s drone war seems to have pretty effectively removed that particular threat.

    But we do look like fools, having committed too much to a doomed campaign. We’ve spilled an awful lot of blood to no good effect.

  6. @James Joyner:

    No doubt a good portion of the President’s thinking on this was motivated by the fact that he had hemmed himself in by campaigning for two years on the idea that Afghanistan was the “good war” that the nation has diverted its attention from to go fight in Iraq.

  7. @Stephen Green:

    That’s pretty much what I’m thinking too. What I don’t get are the people on the right — specifically the candidates for President — who don’t want to admit what seems rather obvious about Afghanistan, and has been for quite some time.

  8. Over the weekend, the U.S. military reached a new agreement with the government that essentially hands control of these raids over to the Afghan military and courts

    In other words, Karzai is going to begin purging his political enemies any day now.

  9. @Stephen Green:

    But we do look like fools, having committed too much to a doomed campaign.

    In generally, I think we’d be better off if we spent less time worrying about whether we look like fools and more time to not actually being foolish. The whole Afghanistan thing has basically become a slow process of weakening our military in the name of appearing strong. I’d rather be actually strong (at which point who cares whether other countries think we are or not) which begins by not having most of our military tied up in impossible to win civil wars all over the world.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    We’ve spilled an awful lot of blood to no good effect.

    That happened in Iraq from the very beginning…that happened in Afghanistan from the moment al-Qaeda ceased to be a major threat to us…