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By Emma Graham-Harrison
KABUL Feb 24 The growing use of "night raids"
by NATO-led and Afghan forces to kill or capture insurgents is
one of the most controversial strategies in the Afghan war.
U.S. General David Petraeus says the pressure on suspected
insurgents and their networks has given new impetus to a near
decade-old war. Critics argue the raids fuel violence because
dozens of innocents are killed or detained.
Here are some facts and figures about the raids, which are
likely to increase as fighting picks up with the spring thaw.
RAIDS IN NUMBERS
* General Stanley McChrystal was considering cutting back on
night raids until he was removed from his post last June. His
successor as commander of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan,
General David Petraeus, has instead stepped up a tactic that
worked well battling the insurgency in Iraq.
* Foreign forces carried out about 1,700 night raids in the
90 days to Feb. 18, or around 19 a day, said a NATO official,
who added weather affected operations.
* This could mean a faster pace in spring.
* The winter rate was already an increase from the previous
three months. In the 90 days to Nov. 11, foreign forces carried
out about 17 night raids a day, according NATO.
* Over the 90-day winter period, around 600 people were
killed and 1,900 people were detained but "not many" are still
in detention, the official said. He declined to give details.
* This suggests a greater restraint on opening fire. During
the 90-day period to November 11, 368 insurgent leaders were
killed or captured, and 968 lower-level leaders were killed.
* ISAF says more than 80 percent of night raids are
conducted without a single shot being fired, they only move on
reliable information and "invariably get the guy they are
* But things do still go wrong sometimes. Last year around 8
percent of civilians killed or wounded by ISAF were victims of
night raids, their data shows. This would be around 37 people
but is still lower than estimates from other sources.
* Search and seizure operations -- mostly night raids --
killed 41 civilians in 13 raids documented in the first half of
2010, according to a U.N. human rights report in August.
* Other problems include serious injury, death of valuable
livestock and destruction of property.
WHY RAIDS ARE CONDUCTED
* Coalition officials say the raids disrupt Taliban and
Haqqani insurgents, limit their freedom of movement at night and
are picking apart their leadership structure and damaging
* The raids are part of guidance laid out by Petraeus last
August: "Get our teeth into the insurgents and don't let go."
WHY AFGHANS COMPLAIN
* Afghans accuse troops of abusing residents, destroying
property, insulting women, and acting on bad intelligence or
based on personal vendettas.
* Afghans also complain that they often do not know which
security forces carry out the raids, cannot get compensation for
death or damages and do not know where detainees are taken.
* A report by the Open Society Institute and Afghanistan's
Liaison Office on 2009 raids said detainees often were turned
over to Afghan security forces, which are plagued by corruption
and allegations of torture and other mistreatment.
CHANGES MADE TO ADDRESS COMPLAINTS
* Afghan forces now usually -- though not always --
accompany U.S. troops when they enter Afghan houses.
* Afghan officials are informed of all raids in advance.
Foreign troops can chose which official to contact, but it must
be someone with a degree of authority
* Troops are required to leave contact details to trace the
detained, and receipts for property damaged or confiscated.
* There is a "soft knock" rule -- that people in targeted
houses should be called out by loudspeaker, and troops only open
fire if they are shot at first.
* Women are separated from the men, foreign male troops keep
a distance and when searched it is usually by female teams
instead of by men, although women cannot go on all raids.
KARZAI'S CRITICISM AND REACTION
* Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post late
last year that he wanted the U.S. military to end night raids.
* U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended targeting
"high-value insurgents" as a key part of U.S. operations and
Petraeus also warned Afghan officials that Karzai's criticism of
U.S. strategy seriously undermined the war effort.
(Editing by Paul Tait and Miral Fahmy)
(Sources: Reuters, Officials at the International Security
Assistance Foce, United Nations reports on the Protection of
Civilians in Armed Conflict)
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