Kabul          -          The Afghan soldiers who swept through Kulalgo village one late August night shot three of Dr Ulfatullah’s relatives carefully, a single bullet through their left eye, faces otherwise untouched as blood pooled below their bodies on the floor of the family home.

The last killing was less precise, and left the face of university student Ansarullah badly disfigured. His family thought perhaps he had heard the muffled gunshot that ended a cousin’s life, and briefly tried to struggle against his captors. The men who killed them were from a pro-government force backed by the CIA and largely unaccountable to Afghan authorities, the family say, one of several which operate across east and south Afghanistan in traditional Taliban strongholds.

In the last two years, as the battle for Afghanistan has intensified and a regional Isis affiliate has joined the civil war, there has been a sharp rise in abusive night-time raids by these forces, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Thousands of men strong, the units have been implicated in multiple, serious human rights abuses including summary executions, forcibly disappearing detainees, and attacking medical facilities. The report, titled They have shot many like this, details 14 deadly raids, where victims have included an elderly woman, a child, and a 60-year-old tribal elder, and says that abusive visits by these units have become a daily fact of life for many communities.

“I believe the 14 [raids we investigated] are only a fraction of the cases of this kind … but because they occur in remote areas most go unreported,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for HRW and author of the report.

“In ramping up operations against the Taliban, the CIA has enabled abusive Afghan forces to commit atrocities including extrajudicial executions and disappearances. In case after case, these forces have simply shot people in their custody.” According to witnesses, on 11 August this year troops from one of these CIA-backed units – which, the witnesses said, was accompanied by at least one US soldier and a translator – served as judge, jury and executioner for 11 men in Kulgago village.

Four were executed in the family compound of Dr Ulfatullah, a pharmacist who lost two sons and two cousins, and has moved his family to Kabul to campaign for justice. “The blood of our sons is still in the rooms where they were killed so it’s difficult for us to live there,” he told the Guardian in the Afghan capital. Although the family campaign has led to meetings with senior Afghan officials, including the defence minister, head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence service, and the provincial governor, they say they do not feel any closer to either understanding why their children were killed or seeing justice.

“The government should tell us why they were killed. Until we get an answer we will keep asking,” he said. HRW said it did not know of any case where someone had been held accountable for abuse by CIA-backed troops.

The report identifies five different forces which nominally come under the control of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the NDS. Unofficially though, they are a law unto themselves. A security source said operational sign-offs required by the NDS are treated as a nominal courtesy, and sometimes done after the fact. The governor of Paktia province also told Ulfatullah’s family that he had no authority over the forces. The Nato combat operation in Afghanistan officially ended in 2014, and now only supports Afghan security forces. But the US has a separate counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan, which has continued fighting aggressively, and includes the covert CIA-backed forces.