Night raids in Afghanistan
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United States and Afghani special forces have employed a controversial technique known as night raids in Afghanistan. US Special Forces maintain the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL), colloquially known as the "kill/capture list". Using night vision equipment US special forces would burst into civilian households where targets on the Joint Prioritized Effects List were believed to be found.
American generals have argued that these raids are a "critical" part of achieving success in the war. Afghani president Hamid Karzai has argued that the impinge upon Afghanistan's sovereignty and has called for them to be halted.
Human rights workers were concerned that the raids killed a large number of civilians bystanders, who weren't on the list. In addition they were concerned that individuals ended up on the list due to weak circumstantial evidence, or false denunciations triggered by greed, or long-standing tribal rivalries.
Afghan journalist Anand Gopal described a night raid intended to capture an official of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture who had been denounced. He wasn't home, but during the course of the raid of the raid two of his cousins who also lived in his family compound were killed, and a third cousin was seized and disappeared into US custody.
Officials on the Afghanistan High Peace Council reacted with anger when former Guantanamo captive Sabar Lal Melma who they thought had already been cleared of suspicion, was killed during a night raid. Saber Melma had been subjected to repeated raids and seizures. Officials on the Commission thought they had been assured by senior US officials that US Special Forces were going to stop harassing Melma. Yet he was shot during a further raid in September 2011.
In April 2012, the United States and Afghan governments signed an agreement which specifies that all future night raids will be approved by the Afghan government and led by Afghan units. It is expected that the raids will continue, and be dominated by US forces due to a shortage of Afghan special forces units; prior to the agreement Afghan forces were involved in 97 percent of all night raids, but only led approximately 40 percent of these operations.
In April 2012 Abdul Salam Zaeff, another former Guantanamo captive, who had served as the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, fled Afghanistan because he feared US raids. On April 9, 2012, Al Jazeera reported that Zaeef left Afghanistan for the United Arab Emirates. Al Jazeera wrote "Zaeef feared for his life in the wake of the attempted raids on his home. Many of the Taliban prisoners freed from Guantanamo had been killed in night raids and that made Zaeef more nervous."
The Drug Enforcement Administration has acknowledged its role in submitting names of individual who would then be subject to night raids. The DEA is the lead agency in the Afghan Threat Finance Cell -- an organization that tracked suspicious financial transactions.
Afghan president Karzai largely banned night raids from 2013. His successor Ashraf Ghani lifted this ban from November 2014. The operations will be conducted by Afghan forces with occasional assistance from American advisers.
- Gareth Porter, Shah Noori (2011-03-17). "U.N. Reported Only a Fraction of Civilian Deaths from U.S. Raids". Inter Press Service.
According to a document from the Afghanistan war logs released by Wikileaks last July, in October 2009, the target list for SOF night raids, called the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL), included 2,058 names. That list provided the intelligence basis for a pace of some 90 raids per month in late 2009 – a huge increase from the 20 per month just six months earlier.mirror
- Gretchen Gavett (2011-06-17). "What is the secretive U.S. kill/capture list?". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 2012-04-12.
Once you’re high enough up the list, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re being watched by high-tech surveillance. Attack tactics range from Hellfire missile and bomb attacks by U.S. drones to controversial night raids at the homes of suspected fighters.mirror
- Graham-Harrison, Emma (8 April 2012). "Afghanistan takes control of night raids from US". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
- Anand Gopal (2010-01-30). "Terror comes at night in Afghanistan". Asia Times. Archived from the original on 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
- Mohammed A. Salih (2010-01-29). "AFGHANISTAN: US Night Raids and Secret Prisons Anger Civilians". Inter Press Service. Archived from the original on 2010-02-02.
In one case, in November 2009, a team of U.S. soldiers attacked the house of Majidullah Qarar, the spokesman for the Afghan minister of agriculture, in search of his cousin, Habib-ur-Rahman, a computer programmer and government employee. In the process, they killed two of Qarar's other cousins, who were unarmed. One was shot when he ran towards the door, the other as he tried to help his bleeding cousin. The soldiers finally found Rahman in the house.
- Johann Hari (2010-02-12). "Obama's secret prisons in Afghanistan endanger us all". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
The Kabul-based journalist Anand Gopal has written a remarkable expose for The Nation magazine. His story begins in the Afghan village of Zaiwalat at 3.15am on the night of November 19th 2009. A platoon of US soldiers blasted their way into a house in search of Habib ur-Rahman, a young computer programmer and government employee who they had been told by someone, somewhere was a secret Talibanist.
- Alissa J. Rubin, James Risen (March 10, 2011). "Cousin of Afghan President Karzai Is Killed in NATO Raid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-13. mirror
- "US forces "mistakenly" kill Afghan president's cousin". Monsters & Critics. 2011-03-10. Retrieved 2012-04-13.
Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's younger brother and head of Kandahar's provincial council, also confirmed the death, saying his cousin was 'mistakenly' killed by the NATO forces.mirror
- Ray Riviera (2011-09-04). "Anger After a Raid Kills a Wealthy Afghan With a Murky Past". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-04.
Mr. Muhammad, the Peace Council member, questioned why a night raid was even necessary when Mr. Lal was living in the middle of a peaceful city where people knew him. ‘I don’t know what kind of justice it is to kill someone when it would have been very easy to detain him if they had any suspicion that he was linked to insurgents,’ he said.mirror
- Qais Azimy, Mujib Mashal (2012-04-09). "Former Taliban leader flees for safety". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2012-04-17.
Muzhda said Zaeef feared for his life in the wake of the attempted raids on his home. Many of the Taliban prisoners freed from Guantanamo had been killed in night raids and that made Zaeef more nervous.mirror
- "DEA Afghanistan Unit Receives Prestigious Joint Chiefs of Staff Award". KETK NBC. 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
The ATFC began operations in mid-2009 and is a multi-agency organization led by DEA with the Treasury Department and Department of Defense as co-deputies. Additional personnel staff ATFC from the Department of Defense's CENTCOM, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Internal Revenue Service. In the past, the FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police also were members. The ATFC’s purpose is to attack insurgence funding and financing networks by providing threat finance expertise and actionable intelligence to U.S. civilian and military leaders.mirror
- "US Officials Say Taliban Funding May Be Impossible to Dry Up". AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
The US government has now created a special investigative unit called the Afghan Threat Finance Cell that gathers financial information about the Taliban. The cell has about two-dozen members drawn from the Drug Enforcement Administration, US Central Command, the Treasury Department and the CIA. The FBI is expected to join soon.mirror
- Norland, Rod; Shah, Taimoor (23 November 2014). "Afghanistan Quietly Lifts Ban on Nighttime Raids". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2014.