first published on January 31, 2018 by Sean
In the wake of a bloody string of terrorist attacks that have recently rocked Afghanistan perpetrated by both the Taliban and ISIS, Vice News uncovers the Afghan Commandos responsible for taking the fight to this determined and resilient enemy. This relatively small force may be all that stands between a free Afghanistan, and the extremists who wish to rip it apart.
A Vice News segment from a few nights ago titled, “The Afghan commandos trying to beat back the Taliban” catches a rare glimpse inside the elite Afghan training and the brave men willing to risk their lives in its service. With four major terrorist attacks ripping through the fledgling nation in only the last ten days, the cycle of violence seems never-ending in the fractured nation. The Afghan government, recognizing these internal difficulties and devising a new strategy has decided that,
“Both the Taliban and ISIS are ramping up the pace of their attacks — and the Afghan National Army isn’t effective enough to do anything about it. So President Ashraf Ghani is betting on a different strategy: drastically increasing the number of special forces troops who might stand a better chance.”
This new strategy, targets and prioritizes the elite commandos over the larger, but often corrupt and questionable loyal Afghan National Army (ANA) and security forces. The Afghan Commandos comprise only 7% of the Afghan security forces but engage in 70% of its offensive combat operations according to the report. Adding that the commandos currently number around 17,000, and hope to swell to around 30K in the next few years.
The ANA on the other hand, has sluggishly and painstakingly grown over the last 15+ years to around 200,000 – this large numeric discrepancy in comparison, highlights the enormous burden in op-tempo shouldered by the relatively small commando force. Often racked with poor morale and rampant corruption amongst the leadership, the combat effectiveness of the ANA is rather shaky at best. This unreliability in the face of a resurgent Taliban and growing ISIS presence has lead the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to this special operation’s focused strategy.
The Vice News segment grants a quick look at the selection of qualified soldiers from the ANA, their training at Camp Morehead, and the personal familial risk these soldiers are taking just by wearing the uniform. With over 10,000 Afghan security personnel killed and more than 16,000 wounded this past year, the dangers facing the fledgling military are increasing. In addition, violence against the families of security personnel is purportedly on the rise – adding a frightfully sinister and intimidating barrier to recruitment. The piece concludes after discussing the serious political adversities with tribal leaders from the violent eastern Nangarhar province.
This new strategy of rapidly growing and relying on the Afghan commandos in lieu of the unreliable ANA is an aggressive step forward. The tactical competence of the commandos is far superior to that of the conventional ANA, and this leaning towards elite troops is a logical modernization. However, this syphoning of talent away from the conventional army and towards the special operations forces will surely inhibit the ANA’s development in the future. While the commando’s will be bolstered initially by this influx of men and equipment, they will probably never be large enough to secure the rugged Afghan countryside. The elite troops will likely remain an offensive force and the difficult job of greater security will fall to the conventional ANA. Long term, ensuring development and modernization of both forces will be absolutely critical to achieving anything resembling peace in Afghanistan.