Afghan Night Raids May Need Warrants Under U.S. Offer to Karzai

Afghan Night Raids May Need Warrants Under U.S. Offer to Karzai
U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers hold a briefing at Combat Outpost Kandalay, before a joint security dawn patrol in the center of Kandalay village, Afghanistan, on August 4, 2011. Photographer: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

Night raids involving U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan might require court warrants under a compromise being considered to remove a hurdle to partnership with the Afghan government after most American troops withdraw, a U.S. defense official said.

The option is being discussed as a way to address the long-held objections of Afghans to nighttime operations, the defense official said on condition of anonymity because negotiations are private.

President Hamid Karzai often has railed against such raids, most recently after U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales on March 11 allegedly killed at least 16 Afghan civilians in a nighttime shooting rampage through villages near his base. While the incident wasn’t connected with any official operation and the U.S. military has said Bales acted alone, the killings fed lingering outrage over night operations.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the U.S. is offering to cede some control over nighttime missions into Afghan villages, with one option being the requirement for warrants from Afghan authorities.

Obama administration officials are pressing to complete a delayed strategic framework agreement with Karzai’s government by the time North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state meet in Chicago in May. The U.S. expects such an agreement to clear the way for continued advising of Afghan forces and for counter-terrorism missions after the NATO coalition withdraws most of its forces at the end of 2014.

‘Weak and Compromised’

The U.S. earlier this month resolved another major objection by Karzai to a larger accord by agreeing to transfer its main prison to his government within six months. U.S. officials retained a veto over the release of any of the approximately 3,000 prisoners at the facility.

Requirements for a warrant in a country where the judicial system is among the least developed institutions risks curtailing operations that the U.S. military sees as essential for continuing inroads against the Taliban. Coalition efforts to establish and improve local courts have largely fallen behind the more intensive efforts to develop security institutions such as the army and police and their related ministries.

“Afghanistan’s justice system remains weak and compromised,” said Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, in a January report.

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