LCDR Bill Speaks of USCENTCOM Public Affairs on American Forces' authorization to apprehend civilians
First, U.S. forces in Afghanistan do not engage in criminal law enforcement, so we would take issue with the terms "guilt" or "innocence" with respect to detainees. Individuals detained by our forces are detained under the law of war, and are held when it is determined that they present a threat to our forces. We periodically review their cases to determine whether they continue to be a threat and warrant continued detention, or should either be released or turned over to the Afghan government for criminal prosecution. The reviews we do should not be construed as a criminal proceeding, and I would also emphasize that we have no interest in detaining individuals who are not a threat.
Second, you refer to these overnight operations as "night raids." Please understand our combined U.S., international and Afghan forces conduct planned operations only against legitimate military targets, as corroborated by multiple sources of credible intelligence prior to engagement and coordinated with Afghan leadership. We do not call these operations night raids because they are not arbitrary actions and the term belies our sensitivity to the Afghan people and their customs. Our combined forces adhere to specific regulations while conducting operations in houses and compounds that regulate when a force may enter a home. The regulations require searches to consider Afghan culture and protect civilian personnel and objects.
I cannot speak to the procedures our combined forces use to detain individuals as doing so violates our operational security.
I can however confirm our forces do have permission to enter Afghan civilians' homes from the Afghan government and to track, detain and question persons who are legitimate military objectives. Our forces do attempt to obtain permission to enter a building before they do so by force, unless they must enter in self-defense or the tactical situation warrants entry. Our forces also, always, separate and safeguard women and children while detaining suspected militants or searching buildings.
Segregation of civilians from military targets is often difficult because militants often attempt to place women and children in harm's way, sometimes using them as shields. Our forces exercise extreme tactical caution and rigorously pursue the safety of civilians.
While I cannot address the specific allegation of "tearing apart" an Afghan's home, I can tell you our forces search buildings for evidence of militant activity, often finding weapons, IED components and drugs or drug manufacturing components. Such searches are permitted by the Afghan government.
When an individual is determined to not be a member of a hostile group or supporting such a group, the individual is released to a government official or at the point of capture. We have provided financial assistance to Afghans for property damage via the Foreign Claims Act or the Commander's Emergency Relief Program (CERP).