Commander: Night Raids Designed to Protect Afghans

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., Nov. 17, 2010 — Night­time raids in Afghanistan are con­duct­ed only under strict guide­lines and approval author­i­ties, with strin­gent atten­tion paid to pre­vent­ing civil­ian casu­al­ties, the com­man­der of the last com­bat brigade deployed to Afghanistan as part of the surge there told reporters here via tele­con­fer­ence from Afghanistan’s Pak­ti­ka province yes­ter­day.

“We take incred­i­ble steps to mit­i­gate civil­ian casu­al­ties,” Army Col. Sean M. Jenk­ins, com­man­der of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team, said from his head­quar­ters at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Sha­rana.

Com­bat troops gath­er as much intel­li­gence as pos­si­ble before launch­ing raids, includ­ing study­ing their tar­gets close­ly to ascer­tain exact­ly how many peo­ple are inside a res­i­dence, Jenk­ins said. When­ev­er pos­si­ble dur­ing night­time oper­a­tions, he said, they pre­fer to iso­late their intend­ed tar­gets and wait until sun­rise to close in on them.

In cas­es when an oper­a­tion can’t wait the light of day, Jenk­ins said, the troops con­duct “call outs,” attempt­ing to get the ene­my to come out of a build­ing so they don’t have to enter it and risk endan­ger­ing non­com­bat­ants. Fail­ing that, he said, Afghan secu­ri­ty forces — not U.S. troops — always are the first to enter an Afghan home.

Jenk­ins and his mil­i­tary com­man­ders empha­sized the tac­ti­cal edge night­time oper­a­tions give com­bat troops equipped with night-vision gog­gles and oth­er gear that enables them to oper­ate effec­tive­ly at night. They empha­sized that the ene­my must not be allowed to per­ceive any par­tic­u­lar loca­tion or time of day or night as “safe.”

Jenk­ins called this strat­e­gy crit­i­cal to suc­cess­es his “Cur­ra­hee” sol­diers have accom­plished since arriv­ing in Afghanistan two months ago. Part­ner­ing with the Afghan Nation­al Army, they have cap­tured 19 mid-lev­el anti-coali­tion mil­i­tant lead­ers and more than 56 mil­i­tants, he report­ed.

Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai has spo­ken out recent­ly against the vis­i­bil­i­ty of U.S. oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, par­tic­u­lar­ly night raids con­duct­ed by spe­cial oper­a­tors. Dur­ing an inter­view in the Nov. 14 Wash­ing­ton Post, Karzai claimed that such raids are caus­ing the Afghan people’s patience to wear thin and sway­ing them to sup­port the Tal­iban.

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton imme­di­ate­ly defend­ed the raids, empha­siz­ing their effec­tive­ness and the fact that they have been car­ried out with Afghan gov­ern­ment involve­ment and con­duct­ed with Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

“We believe that the use of intel­li­gence-dri­ven, pre­ci­sion-tar­get­ed oper­a­tions against high-val­ue insur­gents and their net­works is a key com­po­nent of our com­pre­hen­sive civil­ian-mil­i­tary oper­a­tions,” Clin­ton said. “There is no ques­tion that they are hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the insur­gent lead­er­ship and the net­works that they oper­ate.” These oper­a­tions “are in the best inter­est of the Afghan peo­ple, the Afghan gov­ern­ment and the [Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force] troops who are work­ing with their Afghan coun­ter­parts to secure the coun­try,” Clin­ton said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates down­played any per­ceived rift between Karzai and the Unit­ed States dur­ing yesterday’s Wall Street Jour­nal CEO Coun­cil con­fer­ence. “I think Pres­i­dent Karzai is reflect­ing the impa­tience of a coun­try that’s been at war for 30 years,” Gates said. “We will con­tin­ue to part­ner with him through this con­flict.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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