November 3, 2011
by GARETH PORTER
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) killed well over 1,500 civilians in night raids in less than 10 months in 2010 and early 2011, analysis of official statistics on the raids released by the U.S.-NATO command reveals.
That number would make U.S. night raids by far the largest cause of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan. The report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on civilian casualties in 2010 had said the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by insurgents was the leading cause of civilian deaths, with 904.
Except for a relatively few women and children killed by accident, the civilians who died in the raids were all adult males who were counted as insurgents in press releases and official data released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The data on night raids, which were given to selected news media, cover three distinct 90-day night raid campaigns from May through July 2010, early August to early November, and mid-November to mid- February. The combined totals for the three periods indicate that a minimum of 2,599 rank and file insurgents were killed and an additional 723 “leaders” killed or captured in raids. Assuming conservatively that one-third of the alleged leaders were killed, the total number of alleged insurgents killed in the raids was 2,844.
SOF night raids during the 10-month period totaled 6,282, according to the same ISAF data.
A third crucial statistic, repeated frequently by U.S and NATO officials in 2010 and 2011, is that shots were fired by SOF units in only 20 percent of night raids.
A U.S. military source who has been briefed on SOF operation confirmed to this writer what has been generally known among outside observers – that anytime shots are fired by SOF troops in a night raid, someone is killed.
If shots were fired in 20 percent of the 6,282 raids, it means that 2,844 were killed in 1,256 raids.
With very rare exceptions, night raids target only individuals rather than groups. They are carried out at night because they are aimed at catching the individual at home asleep and therefore taken completely by surprise.
Therefore, a minimum of 1,588 people (2,844 total killed minus the 1,256 targets in the lethal raids) were killed in the raids even though they weren’t targeted. Not every one of the untargeted individuals killed in night raids was a noncombatant civilian. But the socio-cultural and physical setting of the raids guarantees that the percentage of civilians in that total is extremely high.
Within the Afghan compounds that are the physical targets of U.S. night raids live extended family households that normally include not only the male head of family and his wife, but his brothers, sons and cousins and their families.
In Afghanistan, every adult Pashtun male has a weapon in his home, and is obliged by the ancient code of conduct called “Pashtunwali” to defend his home, his family and his friends against armed intruders. In a typical extended family compound, several males have weapons.
As a result, the non-targeted civilians killed in night raids have invariably been either close relatives or neighbors who have come out to assist against an armed assault.
SOF commanders and the command and staff of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have essentially denied all civilian deaths in night raids, except for women and children, by counting all adult males killed in raids as insurgents.