Reporting on the secretive remote killing programs presents unique challenges for journalists seeking to publish information in the public interest while respecting and protecting their sources. Natio...
Lynzy Billing is a British investigative journalist of Afghan-Pakistani origins. She has been reporting on Afghanistan since 2019. Prior to this she was based in the Philippines where she reported on topics including the war on drugs and newborn trafficking. Her story on newborn trafficking led senators in the Philippines to formally call for an inquiry investigating the babies-for-sale trade.
In December 2022, Billing published The Night Raids, a nearly four-year investigation into the CIA’s deadly strategy of funding, and equipping Afghan special forces to target perceived enemies in Afghanistan. The report attempted to track the trail of civilian dead and wounded left behind by one such unit.
Billing spent years crisscrossing violent swaths of Afghanistan to track the fallout of the Zero Units, squads of Afghan soldiers who were funded, trained and directed by the CIA and and who were joined by U.S. special operations forces on the raids. She visited the sites of more than 30 night raids and found that they were often based on disastrously faulty intelligence, resulting in the death of scores of civilians with no ties to the Taliban. She conducted more than 350 interviews to examine the consequences of these raids through the eyes of all involved. She met with survivors who were traumatized by raids that killed family members without explanation or consequence. She spoke with a former Afghan spy chief who acknowledged flaws in the U.S. intelligence powering the Zero Units.
Billing even managed to track down two members of the Zero Units — Afghan commandos who’d come to doubt their role in America’s war and an American Army Ranger who had himself joined the Zero Unit operations. Each of these characters emerge not simply as victim or perpetrator, but as a prism through which to assess an anti-terrorism strategy that American has deployed in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In early 2023, the investigation was nominated for the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics and as a finalist in The National Magazine Awards.