U.S. and Afghanistan strike deal on night raids

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers in Kabul province
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers seen in the Surobi district of Kabul province, March 14, 2012.
Getty Images

(CBS News) In Afghanistan last year, NATO carried out more than 2,000 night raids, which have now become a matter of deep contention between U.S. and the Afghan government. On Sunday, the two sides signed a deal changing the rules of engagement.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports that night raids are among the U.S. military's most powerful weapons in hunting down Taliban fighters, but they're detested by the Afghan people.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for them to stop because he says civilians are killed or injured in the crossfire.

As part of their agreement, NATO announced the raids won't stop, but will be controlled by the Afghans.

This means that Afghan security forces operating under Afghan law will now be responsible for capturing and detaining the terrorists who try to kill and wound the innocent people of Afghanistan everyday," said the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

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That does not mean U.S. troops will be shut out. The agreement includes one crucial loophole: the Afghan troops will operate with support from U.S. forces only as required or requested. Further, U.S. forces will continue to provide intelligence, airpower, medical evacuation, and security.

It all adds up to U.S. boots on the ground, if not inside the house. Afghan officials will both decide which homes get raided, and keep Taliban suspects in Afghan custody.

The Pentagon has said that 97 percent of night operations are combined operations already. And, for all the criticism, it says nine out of ten raids end without a shot being fired, and less than 1 percent result in civilian casualties.

The agreement is an important one: it clears the way for a long-term partnership with a reduced role for U.S. forces in Afghanistan after most combat troops leave the country by 2014.