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ISAF Data Show Night Raids Killed Over 1,500 Afghan Civilians

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U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) killed well over 1,500 civilians in night raids in less than 10 months in 2010 and early 2011, analysis of official statistics on the raids released by the U.S.-NATO command reveals.

That number would make U.S. night raids by far the largest cause of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan. The report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on civilian casualties in 2010 had said the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by insurgents was the leading cause of civilian deaths, with 904.

Except for a relatively few women and children killed by accident, the civilians who died in the raids were all adult males who were counted as insurgents in press releases and official data released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The data on night raids, which were given to selected news media, cover three distinct 90-day night raid campaigns from May through July 2010, early August to early November, and mid-November to mid-February. The combined totals for the three periods indicate that a minimum of 2,599 rank and file insurgents were killed and an additional 723 "leaders" killed or captured in raids. [See Sidebar].

Assuming conservatively that one-third of the alleged leaders were killed, the total number of alleged insurgents killed in the raids was 2,844.

Official Data on Night Raids

ISAF has leaked a set of statistics on insurgents killed in night raids published in major news outlets covering three 90- day campaigns of night raids. In August 2010, ISAF released figures to the Washington Post showing that 1,031 rank and file insurgents had been killed from May through July. In November 2010 the New York Times reported a total of 968 rank and file insurgents killed in the three months from Aug. 11 through Nov. 11.

Reuters reported on Feb. 24, 2011 that 600 people were killed during the 90 days from Nov. 18 to Feb. 18. The figure did not distinguish between rank and file and "leaders."

Those three subtotals add up to 2,599 killed from May 2010 to mid-February 2011.

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The Washington Post and New York Times articles also reported 355 and 368 "leaders" killed or captured during the May-July and August-November periods, totaling 723.

An unknown proportion of that total was deliberately assassinated. Nevertheless, it is assumed in estimating the number killed in the raids that the proportion of alleged "leaders" killed to the total killed and captured in the first two campaigns was the same as the proportion of rank and file killed of the total killed and captured: 34 percent of 723, or 245.

The sum of the totals of 2,599 alleged insurgents and 245 alleged "leaders" assumed to have been killed in the raids comes to 2,844.

The total number or SOF night raids can be estimated from officially leaked subtotals of 3,000 from May through July; 1,572 from Aug. 11 to Nov. 11, and 1,710 from Nov. 18 to Feb. 18.

Those subtotals add up to 6,282 night raids for the entire 10 months.

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SOF night raids during the 10-month period totaled 6,282, according to the same ISAF data.

A third crucial statistic, repeated frequently by U.S and NATO officials in 2010 and 2011, is that shots were fired by SOF units in only 20 percent of night raids.

A U.S. military source who has been briefed on SOF operation confirmed to IPS what has been generally known among outside observers -- that any time shots are fired by SOF troops in a night raid, someone is killed.

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Gareth Porter (born 18 June 1942, Independence, Kansas) is an American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst on U.S. foreign and military policy. A strong opponent of U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, he has also (more...)
 

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