KABUL (AFP) - Foreign troops in Afghanistan have been ordered to carry out night-time raids on peoples homes only when absolutely necessary and only in the company of Afghan soldiers, NATO said Friday. In a directive that attempts to deal with one of the most contentious issues facing foreign forces in the war against insurgents, the head of US and NATO troops in the country has ordered changes to how night raids are conducted. US General Stanley McChrystal has not banned the raids, believing they are a viable and advantageous option, a statement issued by NATOs International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. But his directive concedes they are a source of resentment among ordinary Afghans towards foreign forces trying to eliminate the Taliban threat and end a war that has been intensifying for more than eight years. The raids, mainly on peoples homes, are now to be conducted with Afghan forces in the lead, women are to be searched by women, any property seized is to be recorded and any property damaged is to be compensated for. ISAF said parts of the directive were being made public in order to ensure a broader awareness of the intent and scope of McChrystals guidance to troops. It follows an earlier directive to minimise air strikes in an effort to avoid civilian casualties, another incendiary issue among Afghan people, deftly used by the Taliban to win support against the foreign troop presence. The term night raids refers to raids on homes and other buildings between dusk and dawn by soldiers searching for militants and weaponry. They are criticised as a violation of Afghan culture, in which privacy and honour are paramount and women are generally kept out of sight of men who are not their relatives. The raids often result in violence as men try to defend their property, privacy and, especially, the perceived honour of their women against the predominantly male foreigners. Instinctive responses (by an Afghan man) to defend his home and family are sometimes interpreted as insurgent acts, with tragic results, McChrystal concedes in the directive. While they had operational value, night raids come at a steep cost in terms of the perceptions of the Afghan people, McChrystal said, though he seemed to minimise the resentment they breed as caused by myths, distortions and propaganda that have little to do with the reality. Nevertheless, he said, nearly every Afghan I talk to mentions them as the single greatest irritant. Even when there is no damage or injuries, Afghans can feel deeply violated and dishonoured, making winning their support that much more difficult. McChrystals directive adds to his attempts to cast the war in a favourable light as it changes gear to a counter-insurgency operation that puts the protection of civilians at the forefront of the anti-Taliban efforts. That policy is currently being tested in southern Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold where 15,000 US, NATO and Afghan soldiers are clearing insurgents out so civilian control can be re-asserted. Under the new tactic, McChrystal has promised troops will stay until security is established to ensure the Taliban do not return, as they have in the past. Many Afghans however distrust these assurances and regard civilian security forces, especially the police, as brutal and corrupt. In his directive, McChrystal said: Ultimately, how the Afghan people judge our conduct and perceive our intentions will be decisive factors in their decision to support their nations struggle against the insurgency. We must remember that their protection, their respect and their support are the critical objectives for everything we do. And that reality must govern how we operate. But if we do not conduct ourselves appropriately during night raids, we cede credibility to insurgents who can exploit our insensitivities in a persuasion campaign. It would be a tragic irony if operations we conduct to protect the population by ridding villages of insurgents are distorted to convince Afghans that we are unfeeling intruders, McChrystal said.