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NATO Outlines New Afghan Night Raids Policy

A new NATO policy says Afghan forces must be included in the planning and execution of all night raids that are carried out by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The directive says the Afghanistan National Security Force should be the "first force seen" and the "first voices heard" by the occupants of a compound as it is being entered.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, issued a directive this week outlining the new rules aimed at addressing Afghan concerns.

General McChrystal said night raids are effective in the fight against the Taliban, but must be conducted with "greater care" to ease the anger they have caused among the Afghan people.

The order says NATO troops should avoid night raids when possible. It says if international forces have to enter residences after dark, Afghan forces should be in the lead wherever possible.

The Afghan government must also be alerted ahead of time.

Night raids have emerged as a leading concern among the Afghan public after resulting in the deaths of civilians.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for an end to night raids, saying the war on terrorism is not in Afghan villages and homes.

Meanwhile, news reports say the newly appointed top official of the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah served time in a German prison for assault.

The reports cite U.S. and NATO officials who say Abdul Zahir served part of a four year sentence for stabbing his stepson.

Zahir denies having a criminal record and says the story was fabricated by opponents who want to tarnish his reputation.

Marjah is part of Helmand Province. Afghan and international troops have been fortifying positions in the city, following a February offensive to clear the area of insurgents.

Separately, the Red Cross has condemned the Taliban's use of explosive devices in the city. The relief agency says the improvised mines and other explosives pose a deadly threat to civilians and are preventing a return to normal life.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.