House Armed Services chief presses Pentagon on new night raids deal

Members of the House Armed Services Committee want quarterly reports from DOD on "metrics for past and future raids" against suspected terror targets in Afghanistan, committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said. 

Those metrics will include numbers of U.S. troops needed for those missions and the number of potential high-value targets American and Afghan forces plan to go after, McKeon wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday. 

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Lawmakers also want after action reports on the outcomes of raids carried out under the deal and more information on the Afghan plan for housing terror detainees. 

McKeon's request is the first of what could be many efforts by lawmakers to gain more insight into night-raid missions in Afghanistan.

"This is something that defense officials can expect tough questions about," one House staffer told The Hill on Wednesday. 

Concerns over night-raid operations stem from a new U.S.-Afghan deal over those operations, which was finalized on April 8.

The deal puts Afghan special forces units, known as Kandaks, in the lead of operations with the support of U.S. special forces. It also requires U.S. and Afghan forces to obtain a warrant from an Afghan panel composed of military and intelligence officials before carrying out any night raid.

American commanders would be consulted before any decision on an operation as part of the deal, but the ultimate decision would rest with Afghan leaders.  

However, the White House and DOD "must be extremely cautious" the new night raid deal does not put American troops in harm's way, McKeon wrote. 

U.S. special forces "are now beholden to a foreign judge to capture the highest value targets," according to the deal, McKeon said. "Now is not the time to rush into imprudent arrangements that jeopardize the safety of U.S. forces."

There is also a danger that sensitive intelligence on known high-value targets in Afghanistan could be compromised, he added.  

Information on U.S. intelligence operations tracking known terror targets, as well as operational deals of future raids, will have to be reviewed by Afghan officials under the new deal. 

"At best, targets may be tipped off before an operation," McKeon wrote. "At worst U.S. lives may be lost." 

However, DOD spokesman Capt. John Kirby said on Monday the new deal would not give the Afghan government veto power over American night-raid operations.