Afghan “Night Raids”: Doing More Harm Than Good?

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U.S. troops lead a night raid on an Afghan home in search of Taliban insurgents

It seems every big U.S. military mission – from launching a war to killing Osama bin Laden – happens under the cover of darkness. “We own the night,” is a catchphrase often used by the U.S. military. Night-vision goggles have been a key part of the U.S. military for a generation, and the Army even has a night vision lab: the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate. But Jonathan Smith is asking a provocative question over at Small Wars Journal, based on a review of the “night raids” U.S. forces conducted in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2011: are they worth it?

These missions appear to have substantial negative impact on host population perceptions and the Taliban has utilized this in their propaganda.  Beyond the general concern about accidental killings and detentions on non-combatants, these operations run afoul of Pashtu cultural norms. Pashtunwali, the tribal code of the Pashtun community, places a heavy emphasis on honorable and hospitable conduct (as defined by the community).  Entering the home uninvited at night is practically casus belli…In the end, the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan may ‘own the night’, but that may not be the advantage that it is believed to be. In spite of the increase of such operations and their increased effectiveness, the insurgency has not been diminished – and in fact, may even by be growing.