Combat warrants limit raids, cause worry over leaks
By John Ryan
– Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 22, 2012 11:14:19 EDT
Army forces in Afghanistan must obtain “warrants” to enter local homes before setting out on combat missions, causing concern among soldiers and Afghan forces over potential leaks that could imperil missions.
As NATO forces take a back seat in operations, the Afghan government now bans some U.S. conventional forces from running independent raids and mandates that U.S. forces share operational details with joint coordination cells, said Maj. Joe Buccino, an Army spokesman in Paktika province.
The National Directorate of Security in Afghanistan oversees warrant processes conducted by both American and Afghan forces.
Though corruption has long plagued Afghan governmental agencies, a risk of leaks must be considered in the context of the U.S. transition of control to Afghans, Buccino said.
“We are now in a stage of the mission in Afghanistan where Afghans have got to be doing the security,” he said. “If that means we assume risk with operational security, then we do so. We are no longer at the point in Afghanistan where the capture of one group of high-value targets is going to turn the tide of the war.
“Americans don’t just ask for permission and then go hit these targets,” he added. “We plan and rehearse with our Afghan partners, so the hazard of leaked information is inherent in the entire process.”
Neither the Afghan government nor NATO has released details about a combat warrant system. The Afghan Ministry of Interior has not answered repeated emails and calls from Army Times.
A similar warrant-based system was enacted by the U.S. military and Iraqi government during the closing months of the Iraq War.
In March, the Afghanistan coalition commander mentioned the Iraq system while testifying about night raids to the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the International Security Assistance Force commander, lauded a system agreed upon by the U.S. and Iraqi governments during the Iraq War in late 2008.
“That system was successful, but it was successful because we were able to streamline the judicial process in ways that supported the operations rather than impeded the operations,” he said.
The agreement in Iraq came more than a year and a half after a historic troop surge and as the U.S. moved to an “advise and assist” role during the war’s final stage, called Operation New Dawn.
In Afghanistan, outrage by locals and politicians over night raids led to a memorandum of understanding signed by U.S. forces and the Afghan government that shifted control of “special operations” and night raids to Afghan officials.
“The MOU has just codified what was already taking place for months: the transition to Afghan control of all security operations and, in this case, special operations,” Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a coalition spokesman, said in an email to Army Times. “These are Afghan-led special operations and they have been doing this for months … and it has not hindered or slowed the ability of the U.S./Afghan forces in conducting their operations.”
The MOU specified that the Afghan Operational Coordination Groups would approve special operations in the war zone, and Afghan forces would carry out missions with help from U.S. forces, according to the Defense Department.
The MOU was signed less than a year after President Obama announced the U.S. would reduce troop levels that were boosted by a surge in 2010.
Until the MOU, the U.S. and Afghan forces had partnered for more than 95 percent of night operations, Cummings said.
In 2011, ISAF conducted about 2,200 night special operations and “in 90 percent of those cases, we did not fire a single shot,” Cummings said. Civilian casualties occurred in fewer than 35 cases, he added.
The NATO ISAF in Afghanistan is training 12 “Afghan Strike Forces,” he said. Afghans are supposed to lead all operations by the end of 2014.
“The Afghan special operations units have developed at extraordinary speed and are manned by courageous and capable operators,” Allen said in an April release from the Pentagon. “We also recognize the growing capacity of the Afghan judicial system, which will play a vital part not only in the implementation of this agreement but also in the lives of Afghan citizens.”