Should we be concerned that the new agreement reached by the U.S. and Afghanistan over the conduct of “night raids” will hamper the ability of U.S. Special Operations Forces to target America’s enemies? Not on the basis of what has been released about the accord.
Pentagon spokesmen argue that the limitations–having Afghans in the lead in both operations and the interrogation of detainees–do no more than codify existing practices. Moreover, there are wide loopholes in all cases: Afghans can always request extra U.S. aid and even raids that were not initially authorized by Afghan authorities can still be authorized after the fact.
The underlying reality here is that Afghan Special Operations Forces, like their counterparts in Iraq, are the best of the best of the Afghan armed forces–they have received the most aid and training from American authorities and they are the Afghans most trusted by Americans to act as close partners in sensitive operations. Notwithstanding suspicions that may exist between conventional Afghan and American units, there are close bonds of trust between the two Special Operations communities which should ensure, at least for the foreseeable future, that they will not allow legal limitations to hinder their teamwork. Moreover, Afghanistan’s defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, who is in charge of the implementation of the accord, is considered by Americans to be another close and trusted partner.
From all I have read, this is a good agreement that gives Afghanistan’s government a fig leaf of sovereignty while allowing Special Operations raids to continue at their current high tempo. The successful conclusion of this accord, coming after a similar deal on the handling of detainees, augurs well for the conclusion of a longterm U.S.-Afghan security agreement that could dampen some of the jitters occasioned by the looming 2014 deadline for NATO powers to withdraw their combat troops from Afghanistan.