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Afghan War News > Topics > Night Raids

Night Raids in Afghanistan

One of the most potent weapons in the arsenal of weapons that the Coalition and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have is the use of night raids to capture or kill insurgents and terrorists. Night raids inhibit the insurgents freedom of movement and denies him sanctuary at night. This tactic is highly effective yet very controversial. Contrary to popular belief most night raids don't end in a kinetic activity; many are resolved without firing a shot. A "callout" will prompt the targeted individual to leave the dwelling and surrender to the forces conducting the raid or the raid is conducted with the element of surprise with the targeted individual captured before he can resist.

Night Raid by Afghan Forces in Afghanistan
Afghan-led night raid in Nadir Shah Kot district
(photo by SGT Brian Kohl, DVIDS, Jan 16, 2012)

Cultural Aspects of Night Raids. Any intrusion into an Afghan home univited is considered offensive. In Afghanistan, a man's home is more than just his residence. It represents his family and protecting it is closely intertwined with his honor. Afghans who experience a night raid feel deeply violated and dishonored - resulting in a decreased ability to win their support in a counterinsurgency fight. 1. One of the biggest cultural aspects of night raids in Afghanistan is the treatment of women. The Afghan Army is training female special forces to take part in night raids against insurgents, breaking new ground in an ultraconservative society. 4.

Taliban Info Opns Campaign. The Taliban, always quicker and better at Information Operations than ISAF, exploited the Afghan populations' dissatisfaction with night raids. The Taliban's IO offensive, aided by the position of Karzai, effectively denied the Coalition of one of their most potent counterinsurgent tools. The U.S., its allies, and the ANSF will need to sharpen their own "IO" skills. Perhaps the work of the Resolute Support "EF 8 STRATCOM" Advisor network can get the ANSF to employ IO in support of Afghan-led night operations.

"Night Operations". In view of the negative connotation of the phrase "night raids" the U.S. military is using the term "night operations". 2.

Some Facts and Figures. Night raids are extremely effective as a counterinsurgent tool. In 2011 over 2,200 night operations were conducted. 97% of the raids were joint operations with Coalition and Afghan special operations forces; over 40% of these operations were led by the ANSF. In 90% of the raids not a shot was fired. The raids caused less than 1.5% civilian casualties. Over 83% of the raids succeeded in detaining or striking either the primary or an associated target. 3.

ISAF Guidance on Night Raids. General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of ISAF, issued a Tactical Directive providing guidance and intent for the conduct of night raids by all Coalition Forces operating in Afghanistan. The directive described a "night raid" as any offensive operation involving entry into a compound, residence, building or structure that occurs in the period between twilight and nautical dawn. The tactical directive acknowledges that the U.S. is in a "war of perceptions" and that night raids are an essential component of the Coalition campaign.

Rules Tightened in 2003 for Night Raids. During the last few years of his rule the former President Hamid Karzai placed very strict limitations on the ability of the U.S., NATO, and Afghan security forces to conduct night raids. He cited the cultural aspects of Afghan society that were being violated by these night time raids on homes, compounds and other targets. Many critics faulted Karzai for employing a populist gesture - attempting to show the Afghan people (and the Taliban) that he was standing tall against the Coaltion and not merely the western world's puppet.

Rules Relaxed for Night Raids in Late 2014. With the election of President Ghani the restrictions on night raids were lifted - soon after he took office. The night raids are a valuable tool for defeating the insurgents and it is a good thing that the rules have loosened up for both the Coalition and the ANSF.

SOJTF-A. The Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan is the principle organization that conducts night raids in Afghanistan. A few years back many of these night raids were conducted on a unilateral basis - meaning that only U.S. special operations forces (along with Afghan interpreters) were part of the raiding party. However, as the Afghan National Army Special Forces (ANASF), Afghan National Police Special Police Units, and other organizations (as in NDS) got trained up and more proficient - both joint and Afghan-only night raids were conducted.

Websites with Info on Night Raids in Afghanistan

ISAF Issues Guidance on Night Raids in Afghanistan

Night Raids in Afghanistan by Wikipedia

Afghanistan Night Raids - by The Huffington Post

Clark, Kate. Handing over Night Raids, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

Publications and Papers about Night Raids in Afghanistan

Open Society Foundations, The Cost of Kill/Capture: Impact of the Night Raid Surge on Afghan Civilians, September 2011. Report available in English, Dari, and Pashto.

Thomas, Jason. Why Night Raids in Afghanistan Should Continue, International Relations and Security Network (ISN), 2011. Paper avialable at this link.

News Reports about Night Raids in Afghanistan

February 13, 2015. "Terrorist's Laptop Fuels Night Raids in Afghanistan". The Diplomat. The data from laptop is responsible for a spike in Afghan and U.S. attacks on the Taliban.

February 12, 2015. "U.S. Is Escalating a Secretive War in Afghanistan". The New York Times. Data from seized computer fuels a surge in U.S. raids on al Qaeda.

January 13, 2015. "AAF Special Brigade "777" Leads Night Raids Successfully". Tolo News. The air support to specialized units of the ANA, ANP, and NDS is provided by a special brigade of the Afghan Air Force -  the 777th Joint Air Brigade.

January 6, 2015. "Top Secret List Shows McChrystal Halting Night Raids After Controversy". Truth Out. Night raids were shut down in March and April of 2010 after the political fallout of civilians killed in raids. McChrystal later began to relax the policy in May and June of 2010. This article also sheds light on the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) and the classifications of "capture only", "intelligence collection only", and "kill/capture" associated with the targets on the JPEL.

December 9, 2014. "Here's What Needs to Happen in Afghanistan for Night Raids to be Successful". By Ernest Lee Ronin - Task and Purpose. The resurgence of night operations in Afghanistan will require a level of tactical transparency between U.S. Special Forces and Afghan military. A remarkedly astute commentary on how night raids can be effectively conducted by joint Afghan-U.S. special operations forces.

November 24, 2014. "Could Night Raids Return to Afghanistan?" By Priyanka Boghani - PBS FRONTLINE. The night raids are meant to target insurgents and high-level leadership. Night raids in Afghanistan are a cultural affront to the population and some say it is an offense to Afghan women and to Islam.

November 23, 2014. "Afghanistan Quietly Lifts Ban on Nighttime Raids". By Rod Nordland and Taimoor Shah - The New York Times. The government of the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has quietly lifted the ban on night raids by special forces troops that his predecessor (Karzai) had imposed. Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume night raids and they may have some U.S. Special Forces Advisors along for the missions.

February 16, 2013. "Karzai to Ban Afghan Forces From Requesting Foreign Airstrikes". The New York Times. The restriction effectively put a major obstacle in the way of the Afghan National Security Forces special operations units to conduct night raids as U.S. air support is needed in many cases for these types of operations to be effective.

June 2, 2012. "Taliban Proposes 'Call Ahead' Night Raid Policy for U.S. Military". Duffel Blog. The Taliban has asked to join the negotiation of night raids after a recent agreement between the United States and Afghanistan was reached.

April 11, 2012. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: What the End of U.S. Night Raids Means for Afghanistan". A new agreement signed by General John Allen (COMISAF) and General Abdul Rahim Wardak (Afghan MoD Minister) stipulates that all night raids must be approved by the Afghan Operational Coordination Group, raids can only be conducted by Afghan Special Operations Units, house searches are conducted IAW Afghan law, and houses will only be searched by Afghan forces.

April 9, 2012. "Afghanistan night-raid deal: Does it handcuff US forces?". The Christian Science Monitor. The new agreement requires the military to obtain a warrant within 72 hours of conducting a night raid; problematic because of the lack of OPSEC with the ANSF and the Afghan judiciary.

April 9, 2012. "US to Step Aside on Afghan Night Raids". National Public Radio. Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is interviewed by NPR about the change in the conduct of night raids. Tom paints a positive picture of the recent agreement.

April 8, 2012. "U.S., Afghanistan sign key 'night raids' deal". CNN News. The new agreement affords Afghan authorities an effective veto over controversial special operations raids. NATO SOF must get permission from the Afghans before conducting a night raid. The agreement was hailed by General Allen (COMISAF) and Ambassador Crocker (Embassy) as a major step for Afghan sovereignity and a sign of the increased capacity of Afghan special operations forces.

April 8, 2012. "Afghanistan takes control of night raids from US". The Guardian. An agreement gives Kabul veto rights on operations to kill and capture insurgent leaders conducted by U.S. special operations forces. Afghan security forces will take custody of all detainees. President Karzai had viewed the night raids as a violation of Afghan sovereignty.

December 5, 2011. "Karzai Warns US over Night Raids". Spiegel Online International. In an interview Karzai says he wants the US to cease carrying out night raids in his country. He states that if the raids don't cease, talks about America's post-2014 presence in the country could break down.

November 18, 2011. "U.S. General Defends Afghanistan Night Raids". The Wall Street Journal. LTG Curtis Scaparrotti, head of the ISAF Joint Command, says the night raids allows the Coalition to put constant pressure across the entire insurgent network. General McCrystal had dialed back the frequency of night raids but General Petraeus - the replacement for McCrystal after he was fired - increased the pace of special operations night raids.

November 16, 2011. "Karzai boldly bans night raids, home searches". CBS News. President Karzai, during an address to over 2,000 delegates to a Loya Jirga, stated that all night raids and searches of Afghan homes should stop immediately.

September 19, 2011. "Challenging the US Military's Favorite Tactic in Afghanistan", by Nick Schifrin - ABC News. The US military says that night raids are the safest and most effective tool to capture or kill insurgent leaders; however, critics say the night raids help turn the Afghan population against the United States.

September 19, 2011. "Night Raids, Prisons, Politics and the Afghanistan Strategy", by Herschel Smith - The Captain's Journal. A new study suggests that the long-controversial nighttime operations are doing more harm than good. A report by the "Open Society Foundations" organization cites little benefit from the night operations. An additional consideration is what happens to the detainees captured in the night raids. Many go to prison and become radicalized - more than they already were. Others are released or escape from prison because of a corrupt judiciary, prison escapes, bribary of prison guards or officials, or because of a lack of evidence that would hold up in an Afghan court of law.

June 28, 2011. "Special Ops Nominee Defends Night Raids in Afghan War". By Aamer Madhani - National Journal. Vice Admiral William McRaven defended the use of night raids by U.S. special operation forces in Afghanistan and said that putting an end to American-led night raids would be detrimental to the special operations aspect of the fight in Afghanistan.

June 17, 2011. "What is the Secretive U.S. "Kill/Capture" Campaign". Public Broadcasting System (PBS) FRONTLINE. Piece about the role that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) plays in the global war on terror and in Afghanistan in neutralizing terrorists and high value insurgents. JSOC and other special operations units operate against targets listed on the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL).

February 24, 2011. "NATO's Afghan night raids come with high civilian cost". Reuters. Night raids were drastically increased with the arrival of General Petraeus as the commander of ISAF in 2010.

April 5, 2010. "McChrystal Reins in Night Raids, Says ROE Under Review". DefenseTech. COMISAF issues a new "tactical directive" aimed a reining in U.S. and NATO night raids on Afghan homes.

March 5, 2010. "Command Issues New Rules for Night Raids in Afghanistan". DVIDS. General McCrystal issued new rules governing night raids saying that although they can have value militarily, they also can foster ill will toward the international forces on the part of the Afghan people.




1. To read an ISAF press release about night raid see "ISAF Issues Guidance on Night Raids in Afghanistan", ISAF News.

2. For the use of the phrase "night operations" instead of "night raids" see "Afghanistan Quietly Lifts Ban on Nighttime Raids", The New York Times, November 23, 2014.

3. For source of 'facts and figures' paragraph see "U.S., Afghanistan sign key 'night raids' deal", CNN News, April 8, 2012.

4. For more on training Afghan woment in the conduct of night raids see "Afghan army training female special forces to take part in night raids", Oregon Live, February 14, 2013.



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