|ISAF Issues Guidance on Night Raids in Afghanistan|
KABUL, Afghanistan (Mar. 05) - General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), has issued a new Tactical Directive providing guidance and intent for the conduct of night raids by all Coalition Forces operating in Afghanistan. A "night raid" is any offensive operation involving entry into a compound, residence, building or structure that occurs in the period between nautical twilight and nautical dawn.
Although the Tactical Directive has been classified for the protection of our own forces, portions of the directive are being made public in order to ensure a broader awareness of the intent and scope of General McChrystal's guidance to Coalition Forces.
What follows are releasable portions of the Tactical Directive on Night Raids:
"We are in a war of perceptions. Our forces operate far from home with selfless courage, admirable intentions, and impressive precision and effects. But ultimately, how the Afghan people judge our conduct and perceive our intentions will be decisive factors in their decision to support their nation's struggle against the insurgency. We must remember that their protection, their respect, and their support are the critical objectives for everything we do. And that reality must govern how we operate.
"We know from experience that operations conducted at night are an essential component of our campaign delivering often decisive effects in disrupting and defeating some of the most dangerous insurgent groups. More importantly, the data supports that night raids reduce the potential for civilian casualties.
"That said, in the Afghan culture, a man's home is more than just his residence. It represents his family and protecting it is closely intertwined with his honor. He has been conditioned to respond aggressively in defense of his home and his guests whenever he perceives his home or honor is threatened. In a similar situation, most of us would do the same. This reaction is compounded when our forces invade his home at night, particularly when women are present. Instinctive responses to defend his home and family are sometimes interpreted as insurgent acts, with tragic results. Even when there is no damage or injuries, Afghans can feel deeply violated and dishonored, making winning their support that much more difficult.
"Despite their effectiveness and operational value, night raids come at a steep cost in terms of the perceptions of the Afghan people. The myths, distortions and propaganda arising out of night raids often have little to do with the reality--few Afghans have been directly affected by night raids, but nearly every Afghan I talk to mentions them as the single greatest irritant. Night raids must be conducted with even greater care, additional constraints, and standardization throughout Afghanistan.
"The first and most preferable course of action is to explore all other feasible options before effecting a night raid that targets compounds and residences. Afghans must be in the lead wherever possible, and we must coordinate these operations with GIRoA officials, ANSF, and local elders whenever possible.
"When properly executed, night raids remain a viable and advantageous option. But if we do not conduct ourselves appropriately during night raids, we cede credibility to insurgents who can exploit our insensitivities in a persuasion campaign. It would be a tragic irony if operations we conduct to protect the population by ridding villages of insurgents are distorted to convince Afghans that we are unfeeling intruders.
"Ultimately, the Afghan people will decide the outcome of this conflict, and only with their support can we win. To minimize the ability of the insurgency to foster resentment and ill-will, the use of night raids must be tactically sound, judiciously used, and as transparent as possible. If possible, local elders should be incorporated into the process to ensure that the actual facts are related to the local populace."
In addition, the directive includes:
* The requirement that Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) be included in all night raids, that ANSF be included in the operations planning process at the earliest possible time, and the notification of Afghan government representatives prior to the commencement of any night operation. Notably, ANSF "should be the first force seen and the first voices heard by the occupants of any compound entered."
* All searches will be led and accomplished primarily by ANSF forces, and conducted with regard for the dignity of occupants -- to include searches of females by females.
* Property seized or damaged must be recorded, detailed receipts with point-of-contact provided to local elders or other leaders within the compound, and in the case of any damage, instructions on how to claim compensation.
The ISAF policy on Night Raids builds upon earlier directives which establish guidance on entry into Afghan medical facilities to respect and protect innocent civilians; on driving, instructing ISAF personnel to adhere to appropriate, legal driving procedures and behaviour in Afghanistan; and an over-arching Tactical Directive which provides guidance and intent for the employment of force in support of ISAF operations by gaining and maintaining the support of the people, by separating the insurgency from the innocents, and by avoiding civilian casualties through the application of an appropriate use of force.