Afghan Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has issued a new “Tactical Directive” aimed at reining in U.S. and NATO night raids on Afghan homes, two days after the command acknowledged the accidental killing of five innocent civilians on February 12 during a bungled special operations night raid.
McChrystal’s rising frustration with the killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan by U.S. and NATO troops was evident in a virtual town hall meeting with troops last month where, referring to checkpoint shootings, he said: "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."
In the February issue of an ISAF publication, titled COIN Common Sense, McChrystal penned a short piece expressing concern over escalation of force shootings, that typically occur at checkpoints or from ground convoys, and said that both the rules of engagement and warning shots policy are under review.
Shortly after he assumed command, McChrystal issued a directive on counterinsurgency best practices that emphasized treating Afghans with dignity and respect and being judicious in the use of force, particularly air and artillery strikes. His efforts to restrain coalition troop behavior in a foreign land included issuing a directive on driving in Afghanistan without antagonizing the local populace.
McChrystal writes that nearly every Afghan he talks to single night raids out as their single greatest irritant. The new Tactical Directive on Night Raids, posted on the Central Command web site, says that Afghan men will naturally try to defend their hearth and home when heavily armed foreign troops kick in the door in the dead of night.
“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.”The directive urges troops to consider alternatives to a night raid on Afghan homes and urges prior notification of Afghan government and military officials, and “local elders,” before a raid. Afghan security forces should be included in all night raids, it says, and "should be the first force seen and the first voices heard by the occupants of any compound entered."
Searches of Afghan homes are primarily to be conducted by Afghan security forces and carried out with dignity, including the searches of females by females. Only portions of the classified directive were made public.