Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Over a cup of tea, U.S. ambassador defends night raids to Ghazni leaders

December 16, 2010

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry with Afghan Labour and Social Affairs Minister Amina Afzali and Ghazni Governor Musa Khan

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry defended the use of night raids during a trip to a volatile province southwest of Kabul on Wednesday after some community leaders berated him over a cup of tea about the controversial tactic.

The Taliban-led insurgency has a heavy presence in parts of Ghazni province, which was plagued by violence during the fraud-marred September parliamentary elections. All the winners in the province were ethnic Hazaras even though around half of Ghazni’s population is Pashtun.

A White House review of U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy for the nearly decade long war in Afghanistan, due to be released later on Thursday, will report that foreign forces are making headway against the insurgency but that hefty challenges remain.

Ghazni community leaders having tea at Governor Musa Khan's house and listening to U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry

After lunch at Governor Musa Khan’s house on Wednesday, some local men stood one by one to complain to Eikenberry about night raids, while a prominent Ghazni woman asked for help completing construction of a hospital started in 1996.

“It’s fearful, if you’re a person living in a village and a night raid happens, it’s scary and it’s frightening, but that’s the nature of the enemy we’re fighting right now,” said Eikenberry.

“If you have the intelligence, you know where that enemy is sleeping, not moving, not able to blow himself up, if you can move in and get that enemy you are actually doing it in a way that is more humane, and it’s actually safer for the civilians,” he said.
The role of night raids changed in July 2009 when General Stanley McChrystal, then-commander of U.S. and NATO forces, declared a new strategy based on gaining the support of Afghan communities. Along with a reduction in air strikes, he ordered that Afghan forces always accompany U.S. troops when they enter Afghan houses and there be greater sensitivity to local customs.

A young girl on a new playground at a Ghazni orphanage

Violence across Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, with military and civilian casualties at record levels. A U.N. report said that 1,271 civilians had been killed from January to June, attributing three-quarters of those deaths to the insurgents.

“Security in your country, you know, over the last two years it started to go downhill, it was getting dangerous. These night raids that have been conducted, not everyone has been perfect, but the enemy commanders have been severely reduced over the last 6 months to 12 months,” Eikenberry said.

“If we make mistakes tell us because our job is to protect you,” he said.
While in Ghazni, a 45 minute helicopter trip from Kabul, Eikenberry also dedicated a playground at a local orphanage that had been donated by the family of a U.S.  Department of Agriculture advisor killed by a roadside bomb in 2007 and opened an office for the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team within the governor’s compound.

He also said he would take a look at the issue of the unfinished hospital.

Comments

Karl Eeikenberry is an ex military man and certainly not a diplomat. Mr obama brought in the ex general from retirement to the diplomat arena and regards him as his man. The clown gang, as mr Maccrystal people called them. His days are numbered now, poor chap, in the new year he would be out of job and would be looking after his farm of berrys.

Rex Minor

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