The government of the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has quietly lifted the ban on night raids by special forces troops that his predecessor had imposed, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume the raids in 2015, and in some cases will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory role, the Times reported U.S. and Afghan military officials as saying.
That news comes after published accounts of an order by President Obama to allow the American military to continue some limited combat operations in 2015. That order allows for the sort of air support necessary for successful night raids.
Banned for the most part in 2013 by then-President Hamid Karzai, the resumption of night raids is likely to be controversial among Afghans, for whom any intrusion into private homes is considered offensive.
U.S. military officials have long viewed night raids as the most important tactic in their fight against Taliban insurgents, because they can catch leaders where they are most vulnerable, the paper noted. For years, the Americans ignored Karzai's demands that the raids stop.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed, commander of the Afghan National Army's 205th Corps in Kandahar, welcomed a continuation of intelligence sharing, air transportation and close air support from American forces past the end of the year.
"We need strong backing of foreign forces during night raids, the helicopters and night vision goggles, GPS equipment, and better guidance," he told the Times. "Now we have noticed free movement of the Taliban, they are moving around at night and passing messages and recruiting people for fighting, and the only solution to stop their movement is night raids."
A Western military official, speaking to the Times on the condition of anonymity, said that the Afghan forces would take the lead.
"Night operations are something the Afghans will be doing in a much more targeted way, the way they were trained to do but were held back under Karzai," the official said. "We're not going to be doing that, but there are going to be training missions with advisers along. They are not going to go onto the target with the Afghans, but they may go along in some cases and stay back."
There have not as yet been any reports of night raids since Ghani took office in September, although he has already effectively removed any obstacle to them, the Times reported. Under Karzai, the Afghan special forces were still allowed to carry them out, but few took place because those forces generally lacked the necessary air support and other facilities. In February 2013, Karzai forbade the Afghan military from asking for American air support.