Analysis by Adam Levine
The agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan on night raids raises the question of whether the Afghan government is essentially getting veto authority over U.S. military actions in the war, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
But a top military spokesman disputed the characterization, saying that the Afghans are the ones putting the missions together and leading them, with intelligence being provided by both the U.S. and Afghanistan.More than 97% of the night operations are combined missions, and almost 40% of night operations are now Afghan-led, according to International Security Forces of Afghanistan data. Since December 2011, all night raids have been Afghan-led, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby, who said the agreement was merely "formalizing" the process.
"They are in lead of all these operations," he said.
Since December, there have been more than 350 operations, according to Kirby, who said that in 270 of those missions, the target of the operation was detained with shots being fired only 31 times.
"This is a very capable force," he said.
Kirby denied that the agreement cedes responsibilities or lets Afghans veto U.S. operations.
"This is not about a veto at all," he said.
"There aren't and haven't been disputes or disagreements about whether or not to develop an operation. It's based on confirmed - as I said, confirmed - intelligence from various sources and means," Kirby told reporters during a teleconference Monday afternoon. "And when the team has confidence that a target has been identified, they plan and execute that mission accordingly."
The night raid agreement is similar to the protocol agreed to in Iraq in the final years of the war, said CNN military contributor Gen. Spider Marks, who was a senior intelligence officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
As intelligence in Iraq was developed and targets were finalized, an Iraqi lawyer attached to Joint Special Operations Command would determine probable cause, Marks explained.
Operations were then approved or denied based on the "veracity and credibility of the intelligence." Among the considerations were access, reliability of the information and the sources, and potential for collateral damage assessments. U.S. military lawyers were always part of this decision-making process.
"Once in play, it worked exceptionally well, very quick decision timeline, full trust between coalition and Iraqis," Marks told Security Clearance. "Intelligence was never in question; it was a sovereignty issue."
Operations can happen without a warrant, though a warrant needs to be pursued afterward.
Kirby insisted that is not something "people are going to take advantage of" routinely.
But there are areas not covered by the agreement. Other NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan are not covered by the agreement, just American forces. In addition, night raids by other entities, including CIA-trained units, are not covered by the agreement, The New York Times reported Monday.