KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO will carry out nighttime kill-and-capture raids against suspected insurgents with increased participation from Afghan special forces, the alliance said Monday, after repeated protests by President Hamid Karzai.
The raids have become a flash point for anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan and whether detention operations will be run by the Afghans or Americans. Karzai has demanded that foreign troops stop entering homes, saying that Afghan citizens cannot feel secure if they think armed soldiers might burst into their houses in the middle of the night.
Karzai's office said that during a National Security Council meeting late Sunday, Karzai emphasized the need to prevent civilian casualties, saying the casualties and the night raids on homes "have created serious problems."
Last month, he convened a traditional national assembly known as a Loya Jirga that stopped short of demanding a complete end to night raids. Instead, it asked that they be led and controlled by Afghan security forces.
NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson said that Afghan special forces now take part in nearly all night raids, and their participation is constantly increasing. The raids remain the safest form of operation to take out insurgent leaders, he said, since they account for less than 1 percent of civilian casualties and in 85 percent of cases no shots are fired.
"Karzai has asked foreign troops to [refrain] from entering Afghan homes and this is exactly where . . . 'Afghanization' comes in," Jacobson said, referring to the gradual transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan army and police. They are due to assume full control in 2014, when foreign forces are set to end their combat role.
"Speeding up Afghanization is in everybody's interest, [but] we need time to train the special forces," he said.
Adm. William McRaven, who leads the U.S. Special Operations Command, said last week that about 2,800 raids were carried out against insurgent targets in the last year.
Some analysts have questioned the military and political value of the operations, saying that when guerrilla commanders are killed, they are usually replaced by younger and more aggressive fighters less disposed to making any compromise with the government.