Kill/Capture

by Joshua Foust on 5/11/2011 · 5 comments

Frontline, the best investigative journalism show on TV, covered the controversy of Kill/Capture missions last night. It is excellent.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.


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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 5 comments }

anan May 12, 2011 at 1:10 am

Agreed, this is a very good program.

Leaving the Thakar Raid aside, which has struck me as suspicious from the start, some other observations:

What should the combined ISAF/203rd ANA force have done when they entered the wrong house in Khost? Let us assume for the moment that this was a dirty tribal leader simultaneously backing GIRoA, ANSF, organized crime, and some Taliban militias to advance his own interests. [something I am not convinced is true.]

Maybe cordon the house and stick around the village for a day? Maybe politely invite the tribal elder to come with them. Why was the tribal leader handcuffed? Seems unnecessary and to have been a big mistake. Why wasn’t the tribal leader’s tribe paid some money, treated with more deference and respect, and given an apology? [even if he was dirty, his tribe should be treated with respect.] Did the ISAF and ANSF soldiers express their respect and admiration for the leader’s tribe during the encounter? Don’t know. Also don’t understand why 101st didn’t pay more attention to their 203rd ANA colleague instincts.

The ANSF needs to recruit more woman. After all the men have exited the house and the ANSF suspect the house is safe, woman service people can enter the house, search the house and talk to the woman in the house privately.

The duplicity of Karzai’s spokesman spoke volumes. Every mission has ANSF participation. Many of these operations are approved by ANSF chain of command. MoI minister Bismullah Mohammedi, MoD minister Wardak, and many senior ANSF generals have publicly praised night raids . . . almost certainly with Karzai’s authorization. Karzai can order most of these night raids stopped any time he wishes. He doesn’t. I don’t follow. I think what Karzai means is that good night raids should continue and bad ones should stop. And that makes a lot of sense. So why doesn’t he explicitly say it?

There have been many complaints about Gen Petraeus from anti Taliban Afghans and not without cause. Some of these were hinted at in the piece. Might hopefully address that in another comment.

To make a general observations, there seem to be too many night raids or kill/capture missions against people who could be arrested by the ANSF instead. [Takhar being an example.] A major part of the reason this happens is the dysfunctional MoI judicial system. This is the fault of the international community for refusing to resource the education and training of MoI employees. The number of MoI/ANP who are getting education and training remains ridiculously low. Even post December, 2009. It is a side affect of underfunding the ANSF. If ISAF has no intention of doing this, why not allow India and Russia to train more than 10,000 MoI employees at any given time on their own soil [since the Obama administration opposes India and Russia joining NTM-A and training ANSF in country]?

carl May 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm

The 1st segment of the program showing the raid by the 101st really bothered me. They arrived in the daylight and judging by the show there couldn’t have been much of an element of surprise to be compromised yet they kicked in the front door instead of knocking. Then they decide to search the place even though it is the wrong house and while doing so kick in and destroy an interior door with the owner looking on. Then they take the owner away in cuffs, as noted by anan. I hope they at least gave him a ride back to his house after they released him.

After discovering the ID error the whole thing seemed to be an attempt rescue a thing gone bad an to pick up a stat-1 raid, 1 suspect detained, 1 stat compiled and 1 really pissed of tribal elder the consequences of which won’t be compiled in a stat…yet. This did not seem to be a way to win friends but I’ll bet it influenced some people to include the ANSF guys along for the ride.

I am just an interested civilian who has never been there and can only judge by what was shown on the program but that raid seems to have been a locally consequential defeat.

anan May 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Carl, my thoughts exactly.

Would emphasize that this is Khost, home of 1-203, arguably the ANA’s best combat manouver bde. 203rd is the only ANA Corps which is to some degree really in the lead and the only place that “combined partnership” “embedded partnering” is actually in effect. i.e. The 203 ANA soldiers and their chain of command also needs to be partly blamed for what happened.

This may have been a strategic defeat for both 101st and 203 Corps. Of course, there are ways to mitigate situations like this. Visits by senior ISAF and ANSF and GIRoA officers and compensation to the tribes. Assuming this was done and the consequences were managed, it is still a major waste of valuable senior ANSF/ISAF/GIRoA time.

Carl, this sort of thing bugs me a lot precisely because there really are many anti Siraj Khost tribal leaders who want to fight Taliban/AQ and company. 203 ANA Corps and the Khost AUP have impeded the formation of anti Taliban tribal militias because they want a monopoly on force.

anan May 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm

To clarify, if the tribal chief was dirty, then shouldn’t he be presented before tribal elders and why shouldn’t “THEY” punish him? Maybe he can be replaced as tribal chief by a close male relative.

Why shouldn’t evidence that this chief is complicit in attacks against 203 ANA Corps, ANP, NDS, ISAF, or GIRoA should be presented before the tribes. If he flees to Pakistan, shouldn’t he be found guilty and punished in absentia? Or am I missing something?

Am suggesting this because it is Khost. In pro Taliban parts of Ghazni where the tribes are pro Taliban and anti GIRoA, or in areas where the tribes are less influential [which is most of Afghanistan] this wouldn’t work as well.

M Shannon May 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm

A combined ISAF/ 203rd ANA force? There was nothing in that film that indicated the ANA had the smallest modicum of control, influence or even the respect of the Americans. If they had then there’s no reason for the US to be even involved.

Nothing in the film indicated the US troops were especially well training or knowledgeable. either Ten years and this is a typical mission. Sad.

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