Today, the New York Times reported that the last couple of months have seen a marked increase in the number of night raids conducted by Afghan and U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan. The New York Times believes that this surge in raids is due to the data retrieved from a laptop detailing Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The intelligence found on the laptop is “possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” the article notes.
The laptop’s owner, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti, was killed during a raid that took place in Nazyan district of eastern Afghanistan, bordering the Khyber tribal agency in Pakistan, a safe haven for Islamic militants across the world. Kuwaiti may have been the assistant and right hand of Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Al Qaeda’s chief of staff, and may have taken over some of the latter’s duties and responsibilities.
There are no precise numbers on the number of night raids and how many militants have been killed in the last few months, yet according to an unnamed official, the scale and scope of operations is “unprecedented for this time of year” (the fighting season usually starts in early to late spring in the country). “It’s all in the shadows now. The official war for the Americans — the part of the war that you could go see — that’s over. It’s only the secret war that’s still going. But it’s going hard,” emphasized a former Afghan security official, confirming the above statement.
The increase in night raids is also attributable to a new security pact, signed by President Ashraf Ghani in September 2014, which eased restrictions on night raids by American and Afghan Forces. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of U.S. and NATO ground forces in Afghanistan, allegedly increased the tempo of Special Forces operations right after the signing. Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, was vehemently opposed to those raids and put severe limits on them, to the dismay of many Afghan military commanders.
For example, when I interviewed an Afghan major at a small combat outpost in Eastern Afghanistan two and a half years ago, he unequivocally endorsed night raids: “I am also in favor of unrestricted night raids by U.S. forces. I could noticeably see the difference in my area of operation when the Taliban were afraid to get attacked at night where now they can openly rest and recuperate while we still lack some of the special forces capabilities and training that U.S. forces enjoy.”
One of the recent victims of night raids was Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, who had a falling out with the Taliban leadership, after which he replaced White Taliban flags with the black flags of the Islamic State, donned black battle fatigues, and pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was killed this Monday.