KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — NATO will continue to carry out nighttime kill-and-capture raids that target suspected insurgents despite repeated protests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the alliance said Monday.
Spokesman Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson said that Afghan special forces, however, now take part in nearly all night raids and their participation is constantly increasing.
The raids have become a flash point for anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan and whether detention operations will be run by the Afghans or Americans. Karzai has demanded that foreign troops stop entering homes, saying Afghan citizens cannot feel secure if they think armed soldiers might burst into their houses in the middle of the night.
Jacobson countered that the raids remain the safest form of operation to take out insurgent leaders. They account for less than 1 percent of civilian casualties, and in 85 percent of cases no shots are fired, he said.
Last month, Karzai convened a traditional national assembly known as a Loya Jirga that stopped short of demanding a complete end to night raids. Instead, it asked that they be led and controlled by Afghan security forces — a demand that the U.S. says it has met.
"President Karzai has asked foreign troops to (refrain) from entering Afghan homes and this is exactly where ... 'Afghanization' comes in," Jacobson said, referring to the gradual transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan army and police. They are due to assume full control in 2014, when foreign forces are to end their combat role in Afghanistan.
Adm. William McRaven, who leads the U.S. Special Operations Command, said last week that about 2,800 raids were carried out against insurgent targets in the past year.
But some analysts have questioned the military and political value of the operations, saying that when guerrilla commanders are taken out they are usually replaced by younger and more aggressive fighters less disposed to making any compromise with the government.
The issue also has held up the signing of a security agreement with the U.S. that could keep thousands of American troops here for years beyond the 2014 deadline for most international forces to leave. Remaining American troops would train Afghan forces and assist with counterterrorism operations.
Meanwhile, two attackers wearing suicide vests were killed Monday when their explosives detonated while they were riding a motorcycle through Dilaram district in western Nimroz province, the Interior Ministry said. There were no other injuries, the statement said.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.