Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

House Searches Anger Helmand Residents

Residents say Afghan forces should accompany foreign soldiers.
By Sefatullah Zahidi
It was a typically quiet night in the village of Ainak, Helmand, and Muhammad Akbar was sleeping soundly. Around midnight the peace was suddenly shattered by the sound of helicopters hovering above his home. Foreign soldiers blasted through his front door, threw a smoke bomb into the house and rounded up 15 men.

A neighbouring farmer who had gone outside to urinate was shot dead during the November 7 operation, according to Akbar.

“They tied our hands and put us in the helicopter and we didn’t know were they were taking us. Finally we landed at a military base and they started interrogating us,” he said.

Akbar says they were released after three days at Bastion, a remote base in the northeast of the province. With no idea how to get home, they walked for a long time through the desert before reaching a paved road where they rented a vehicle to take them back to their village.

Residents of Lashkar Gah like Abdullah are also unhappy about the house searches conducted by international troops.

“If British forces want to search our houses they should ask our national police to join them, because they are acquainted with our culture and traditions,” he said.

Akbar’s younger brother Abdul Saboor agrees, “It is wrong for foreign forces to enter people’s homes in an intrusive manner and without being given permission to carry out a search."

Helmand police chief General Muhammad Husain Andiwal admits there is a problem.

“We have asked them [foreign troops] several times to respect Afghan culture and tradition, and it would be better if they asked the national police to join them while they are searching the houses," he said.

Richard Eaton, spokesman for the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, says British forces are making efforts to include Afghan personnel in such operations.

“We are trying to make Helmand a stable province. We always ask the national police to accompany us when we search houses, but sometimes it is difficult for them to so."

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