Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Strangers at the door: Afghanistan’s deadly night raids



NATO has admitted that its forces were responsible for the deaths of five Afghan civilians including three women during a botched night-time raid in eastern Afghanistan in February. Two of the women were pregnant, one a mother of 10, the other had six children.

The alliance initially said troops had found the women already killed, bound and gagged, when they entered the compound in Gardez in Paktia province, but later acknowledged that was untrue. NATO is now looking at allegations by Afghan investigators that U.S. Special Forces involved in the raid tampered with evidence at the scene to cover the blunder.

It was another of Afghanistan’s deadly night raids gone wrong, which have so alienated Afghans, and where the risk of killing civilians is perhaps greater than with air strikes.  The New York-based  Open Society Institute in a report released in February said while casualties linked to air strikes had fallen as part of the new counter-insurgency strategy to protect the population, there has been no noticeable decrease in the dreaded practice of night raids. Indeed night raids are taking place in previously unaffected areas such as Kunduz in the north where a resurgent Taliban have mounted a strong challenge to German forces based there.

Night raids are when military forces, usually a mixed group of internationals and Afghans, force entry into an Afghan home in the middle of the night, search the premises and usually detain one or more men of the family. Reports of abuse — punching, slapping, or other mistreatment — during these raids are frequent, says Erica Gaston, a human rights lawyer and one of the report’s authors.