Earlier this year, while Stanley McChrystal still headed US forces in Afghanistan, McChrystal lost control of messaging and stories began to come out revealing the extent to which Special Operations Forces night raids were alienating Afghan civilians. One of the more telling reports was by Anand Gopal, where he described in detail the anguish of families who lose members to these intrusions into family compounds, with loved ones disappearing into a secret prison system. Shortly after that report, we had the disgusting revelation of Special Operations Forces carving their bullets out of the dead bodies of women they killed in a botched raid on a family compound. Somehow, even though the number of these night raids has increased dramatically since David Petraeus has taken over after McChrystal was fired, stories detailing the horrors of night raids and the deaths and destruction caused to families who are incorrectly targeted have not appeared as frequently as they did in the spring. This weekend, the silence on night raids was broken by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and that action sent David Petraeus into a toddler-level pout.
President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end the increased U.S. Special Operations forces night raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgency.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Karzai said that he wanted American troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only worsen the war. His comments placed him at odds with U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has made capture-and-kill missions a central component of his counterinsurgency strategy, and who claims the 30,000 new troops have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency.
“The time has come to reduce military operations,” Karzai said. “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”
Those night raids are Petreaus’ main weapon, and when Karzai pointed out how they “only worsen the war” and constitute “intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life” he was upset mightily. He was given a chance to push back against Karzai in the Post:
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the coalition military commander in Afghanistan, warned Afghan officials Sunday that President Hamid Karzai’s latest public criticism of U.S. strategy threatens to seriously undermine progress in the war and risks making Petraeus’s own position “untenable,” according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Officials said Petraeus expressed “astonishment and disappointment” with Karzai’s call, in a Saturday interview with The Washington Post, to “reduce military operations” and end U.S. Special Operations raids in southern Afghanistan that coalition officials said have killed or captured hundreds of Taliban commanders in recent months.
And, yes, this Post article confirms that Petraeus sees his precious night raids as his only tool:
The night raids are at the heart of Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy and are key to his hopes of being able to show significant progress when the White House reviews the situation in Afghanistan next month.
The Post finds Petraeus’ pout so severe that they feel compelled in the article to state that Petreaeus hasn’t actually threatened to resign.
The New York Times outlines how Petraeus is using the night raids as his primary tool to justify “progress” ahead of a strategy review by NATO:
The phased four-year plan to wind down American and allied fighting in Afghanistan will be presented at a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon later this week, the officials said. It will reflect the most concrete vision for transition in Afghanistan assembled by civilian and military officials since President Obama took office last year.
The plan came amid escalating pressure from President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to reduce the visibility of American troops, to halt night raids unless carried out by Afghan soldiers or police officers and to begin withdrawing foreign forces by next year. “The time has come to reduce military operations,” Mr. Karzai told The Washington Post in an interview that stirred renewed concern among American officials on Sunday. “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan.”
On the ground, the tempo of Special Operations raids has greatly increased, resulting in what the United States military says is a sixfold increase in captures and killings of Taliban commanders, but also in an increase in night raids that sometimes lead to civilian casualties.
Poor little Petraeus had clamped the lid down so well over the real effects of his rampant night raids, only to have Karzai crack that lid just when real evaluations of where we stand in Afghanistan get underway. Little wonder, then, that he would go into full-scale pout and foot-stomping. US strategy in Afghanistan can only be viewed as successful when information coming out of Afghanistan is strictly controlled. When that control slips, failures start to be revealed, and Petreaus is just not used to being viewed as the failure that he is.
The Obama administration and the military are working hand in hand to push back the timeline of withdrawal from Afghanistan because they realize that Petraeus is an utter failure at training Afghan troops, just as he was with training Iraqi troops. With “progress” from night raids now threatened, too, Petraeus has nothing left.