American troops in Afghanistan raided the home of a local anti-Taliban commander and proceeded to blow up a munition cache inside his home, an action that shows U.S. forces are carrying out combat missions beyond their stated train, advise, and assist role, reports The New York Times (NYT).
The operation, which occurred in the northern Afghan province of Parwan in the wee hours Monday, along with other nighttime raids recently conducted by the U.S. in the same region, sparked a protest.
U.S.-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have ordered a probe into the raid, reports Iran’s state-run media outlet Press TV.
Former commanders and local elders claim the raid was politically motivated, potentially settling a score from the 2014 presidential election crisis, notes The Times. Meanwhile, the U.S. military describes the raid as force protection.
At the culmination of 2014, President Obama declared an end to the U.S.-led combat mission in Afghanistan and announced the withdrawal of most American troops from the war-torn country, saying a limited military force would stay behind “to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.”
“The raid on Monday morning demonstrated that American troops in Afghanistan, months after President Obama declared their regular combat mission over, are engaged beyond their publicly stated role of advising the Afghan forces and carrying out targeted counterterrorism operations,” reports NYT.
“It also highlighted how, despite a lengthy campaign to disarm illegal militias, costing hundreds of millions of [U.S. taxpayer] dollars, armed groups that have no apparent ties to al-Qaeda or even the Taliban are still considered by American forces to be a significant threat,” it adds.
Reuters notes that little is known about the scope of U.S. counterterrorism operations now that the U.S. combat mission is officially over.
The raid targeted Jan Ahmad, identified as a local commander who participated in battles against the Soviets and then the Taliban.
Some residents of Parwan, Kabul’s northern neighbor, took to the streets of the provincial capital Charikar hours after the raid to protest the operation against Mr. Ahmad’s weapons stockpile and other recent raids.
“Death to America” and “Death to the enemies of Islam,” reportedly chanted Ahmad’s angry supporters as they blocked the main highway in Parwan.
Protesters also called for the rapid removal of all American troops from Afghanistan, Iran’s state-run news network Press TV reports.
“They expressed outrage at the manner of [Monday’s] raid, saying it was a matter that the Afghan authorities, not foreign forces, should have handled,” explains The Times.
Parwan houses America’s largest military installation in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, which has repeatedly been under rocket fire in recent months.
Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for the top commander of U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell, said that the raid was carried out “to destroy a cache of munitions that could be used to conduct attacks against Afghans and coalition forces.”