By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2012 – As U.S., NATO and Afghan officials discuss the future of night raids in Afghanistan, the raids are effective and Afghan forces participate in the planning of every night operation, a senior Defense Department official said here today.
“[Night raids have] been a concern of the Afghan government for some time,” George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said in a news conference. “We recognize that. We recognize the effectiveness, as well, that night operations have had over time.”
NATO and U.S. officials contend that conducting night operations reduces the danger to civilians while keeping pressure on insurgents. International Security Assistance Force officials in the Afghan capital of Kabul say 85 percent of night operations occur without a shot being fired, and only about 1 percent of night operations have led to civilian casualties.
Still, night operations are a bone of contention for the Afghan government, and the coalition is working with the government to assuage their concerns, Little said.
“We believe we’re making progress in heading toward an agreement on this and a broad range of other issues,” he added. “ISAF forces are working hand in hand with our Afghan partners on night operations, and they are highly effective.”
Al-Qaida is smaller and has been hurt badly by continued U.S. and coalition attacks, but it remains a danger, Little said.
“The important thing to remember about al-Qaida is that … even though they may be smaller than some other groups in the region, it’s about their objectives,” he said. “And … even though they are damaged from serious pressure that's been brought to bear against them, one of their objectives remains to attack the United States and our allies. So we have to keep the pressure up. We have to make sure that they don't have the ability to strike us again.”
Little stressed that Afghan national security forces are making progress. About 330,000 Afghan soldiers and police are serving today, a number headed to 352,000 this summer. “There’s been a lot of discussion recently, and rightfully so, about some tragic and recent incidents,” he said, referring to attacks on coalition forces by Afghans in uniform. But the overwhelming majority of Afghan forces have made progress, he added.
“They’re doing great work, on their own and with us and with our allies,” Little said, adding that while there have been incidents, the over-arching progress cannot be denied.
“This is a testament to our Afghan allies’ commitment to taking the fight on themselves [and] providing for their own security, and we’re going to continue to stick with them to try to enhance their capabilities,” he said. “This is important.”