Afghan strike forces overseen by the CIA are operating with little care for preventing civilian casualties, a lengthy New York Timesreport details Monday, and their brutality has fostered local populations' sympathy for the Taliban.
The CIA-managed teams work "unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity," the Times reports, citing Afghan and American officials. "Those abuses are actively pushing people toward the Taliban, the officials say," and as the U.S. military footprint in the country has declined from its 2011 peak of about 100,000, these "strike forces are increasingly the way that a large number of rural Afghans experience the American presence." Unconfirmed reports suggest some raids may even include American operatives.
Though the strike forces are considered more effective than their counterparts without CIA sponsorship, their successes against militants are mixed with ruthless but inaccurate targeting of innocent people. In one case, "two brothers were killed as they watered their fields before dawn after receiving permission from the local security outpost."
In another, a night raid on a family home ended with three adults summarily executed and the home in flames. A 3-year-old girl, Marina, was found burned to death in a bedroom. Local investigators concluded the victims were innocent and the raid was an "atrocity."
In these and other cases the Times investigated, victims "were at a loss for where to seek justice, or an explanation of why they had been raided" or subjected to torture.