6 years ago
We have been a critic of the specific use in which special operations forces have been employed in Afghanistan. Just to rehearse two recent examples, in Lt. Gen. McChrystal Testifies we said:
TCJ had also hoped that General McChrystal would attach Army SOF to units in the field rather than use them on raids. No such thing is on his mind, apparently. Now, we have admitted before of our being nonplussed at this idea, this notion of SOF being the direct action kinetics troops, with so-called General Purpose troops being the defensive forces. TCJ opposes this …
In A Half Dozen Gargantuan Bases, we said:
Even many of the Army SOF are base-bound except for their forays into the wild via helicopter rides to the next raid. Some Army are doing it right (e.g., the Korangal Valley), as are the Marines in Helmand. But the gargantuan bases are an obstacle to success in Afghanistan. Empty them. Send the Army on dismounted patrols, open vehicle patrol bases, smaller FOBs, and combat outposts. Get amongst the people.
Regular readers of TCJ know that this is only a small sampling of our advocacy for re-attaching SOF to infantry as specialized billets. Now comes developments in the area of use of SOF in Afghanistan.
McChrystal has asked two veteran special operators on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, which he directs, to accompany him to Afghanistan once he wins Senate approval for a fourth star. The two are Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who headed intelligence for the chief terrorist hunting unit in Iraq; and Brig Gen. Austin Miller, a Joint Staff director for special operations.
Military sources say Brig. Gen. Ed Reeder, who commands special operations in Afghanistan, went in-country earlier this year to revamp the way Green Beret “A” Teams, Delta Force and other special operators conduct counter-insurgency.
Green Berets, the same group that led the 2001 ouster of the Taliban from power, now primarily work out of fire support bases, often independently of conventional forces. They fight to control the Taliban-infested border with Pakistan, and train the Afghan army.
Critics within special operations have said the A Teams need to work more closely with conventional forces and with NATO counterparts. “This would give us a needed one-two punch,” said a former operator who served in Afghanistan.
Recalling the ridiculous red tape in NATO’s Afghanistan, TCJ is in favor of returning this to as much of a U.S. operation as possible (including the British, by the way). This isn’t to show disrespect to our NATO allies, but rather, to say that the effort must be led by the U.S. But aside from that nuance (” … and with NATO counterparts”), we are certainly one of the critics of SOF.
Note that we aren’t critical of SF (Green Berets) being embedded with the Afghan Army anywhere. With their language training, that’s there job. We are indeed critical of SOF (Rangers, et. al.) being detached from infantry and the very counterinsurgency campaign that they should be supporting. As we have said before, it is almost as bad an idea to separate SOF from the larger COIN campaign as it is to separate infantry from kinetics.
So TCJ nailed it, and we’ve been doing the fancy dancing. Or did we, and should we? How will this play out, and what will McChrystal do? How will he use SOF? Will this still be a HVT campaign to find and capture mid-level Taliban commanders, sending them to jail only to be set free and resume activities later, or will it become a real counterinsurgency campaign? Time will tell, but this critic will continue to monitor the situation.
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