Kabul: US and NATO troops in Afghanistan will be permitted to carry out raids at night only when there are Afghan security forces present, their commander, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, ordered on Friday.
McChrystal`s order falls short of the outright ban on raids at night sought by President Hamid Karzai but would ensure that such raids took place only with Afghan authorities included in the planning and execution.
At a security conference in Munich last month, Karzai called for an end to civilian casualties, as well as an end to night raids and the arrest of Afghans in their homes, saying "the war on terror is not in the Afghan villages and homes".
Civilian deaths and injuries inflicted during operations by international forces have caused deep anger among Afghans. Analysts argue such casualties encourage people to join the Taliban-led insurgency.
Afghan security forces "should be the first force seen and the first voices heard by the occupants of any compound entered" during a night raid, said excerpts from McChrystal`s classified directive made public by his headquarters.
McChrystal defended night raids as an effective tactic that reduce civilian casualties but said they can also cause anger among the public and need to be carried out in a manner that would minimize any backlash.
"Despite their effectiveness and operational value, night raids come at a steep cost in terms of the perceptions of the Afghan people," he wrote.
"In the Afghan culture, a man`s home is more than just his residence ... He has been conditioned to respond aggressively in defense of his home and his guests whenever he perceives his home or honor is threatened," McChrystal wrote. "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."
The order requires Afghan forces to be included in all night raids, for Afghans to lead any searches -- including having females on hand to search females -- and for receipts to be issued and compensation offered for property seized or damaged.
"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," McChrystal said.