Before dawn on June 1, a group of U.S. special forces and Afghan army commandos arrived by helicopter to the east of Alizai, a farming hamlet in Andar district in Taliban-controlled territory in central Afghanistan. They moved from house to house, arresting any fighting-age men they found, while the local Taliban fighters, who had been sleeping in a mosque at the other end of the village, fled without a fight.
By sunrise, the soldiers had gathered more than 100 men in the yard of a house belonging to a local man named Hajji Badruddin. As is typical in rural Afghanistan, the house had two large adjoining courtyards fenced in by high mud walls. The villagers were kept in one yard, while in the next yard the Americans and Afghan commandos had set up their four-wheeled ATVs, other vehicles and equipment.
“This operation was Afghan planned and led,” Lt. Col. Christopher Belcher, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, explained in a written statement. “ISAF was there in an advisory role, advising the Afghan security forces conducting the operation.”
Night raids are common in Andar, and the villagers assumed they’d be let go once the soldiers were finished with their operation. “When we saw that we all shared the same fate, we felt comforted,” said Yousuf, one of the villagers. (The names of Alizai residents quoted in this article have been changed for their protection.)