Afghanistan will ex­pand elite units

Com­mando forces seen as key to beat­ing back Tal­iban.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Thomas Gib­bons-Neff Washington Post

The Afghan mil­i­tary will be­gin ex­pand­ing its elite com­mando units in the com- ing weeks, Afghan of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary of­fi­cers said, in a bid to cap­i­tal­ize on a force that has been one of the few suc­cess sto­ries in the nearly 16-year-old war.

Start­ing in Septem­ber, the train­ing academy here will add an 800-man, 14-week­long com­mando course atop its cur­rent cur­ricu­lum. Afghan of­fi­cials are op­ti­mis- tic that in the com­ing years the 12,000-strong force will be able to al­most dou­ble, to 22,000 troops.

As the num­ber of com­man­dos grows, the Min­istry of In­te­rior’s elite po­lice unit and the Afghan Air Force’s Spe­cial Mis­sion Wing will also ex­pand, to 9,000 and 1,000 troops, re­spec­tively.

The Afghan mil­i­tary’s de­ci­sion to in­vest in its com­mando forces comes with strong U.S. back­ing and is a key com­po­nent of Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani’s re­cent mil­i­tary re­form plan.

The com­man­dos, with their track record of reli- abil­ity, have be­come a fa­vorite of U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials. They see the force as key to push­ing back the Tal­iban mil­i­tants who have taken over broad swaths of the coun­try since NATO forces ended their com­bat mis­sion in 2014. A re­cent re­port from the Pen­tagon’s Spe­cial In­spec­tor Gen­eral for Afghanistan said the com- man­dos and other spe­cial units were re­spon­si­ble for 80 per­cent of all Afghan offensive op­er­a­tions as of early 2017, but warned that they have been overused.

The com­man­dos “are very tired,” said Maj. Gen Dawlat Waziri, the chief spokes- man for the Afghan Min­istry of De­fense. “By rais­ing the num­ber of com­man­dos we will be able to give them a breath.”

Col. Mohmand Zabi­hul­lah, the op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer for the Afghan Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions com­mand, told re­porters that his forces have taken steps to en­sure they weren’t be­ing mis­used, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing bet­ter re­la­tions with reg­u­lar units and en­sur- ing re­quests for the com­man­dos are chan­neled through the Min­istry of De­fense. It is un­clear, how­ever, how ef­fec- tive those mea­sures will be if the Tal­iban con­tin­ues to gain ground.

The Afghan com­man­dos were ini­tially in­tended to act as a raiders against Tal­iban com­man­ders and other crit­i­cal tar­gets, but they have slowly turned into the Afghan mil­i­tary’s premier shock troops. They are fre­quently tasked to clear ar­eas of Tal­iban in­sur­gents, of­ten with the help of U.S. air sup­port and West­ern Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions forces, so that reg­u­lar Afghan Army units can flow in be­hind them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.