A surge of Special Forces for Afghanistan likely

Ravage

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20081223/ts_csm/asoftsurge

Washington – The Pentagon is likely to send up to 20 Special Forces teams to Afghanistan this spring, part of a new long-term strategy to boost the Afghan security forces' ability to counter the insurgency there themselves.

The "surge" of elite Special Forces units would represent a multiyear effort aimed at strengthening the Afghan National Army and police units that the US sees as key to building up Afghanistan's security independence, say defense officials who asked to remain anonymous because the controversial decision has not yet been announced. The US already plans to send thousands of additional conventional forces to Afghanistan sometime next year. But it is hamstrung by limited availability since so many of those forces are still in Iraq.

The deployment of the Green Berets, the independent, multifaceted force skilled at training indigenous forces, could fill critical gaps in Afghanistan almost immediately, defense officials say.

There are currently about 31,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this weekend on a trip to Afghanistan that as many as 30,000 additional American troops could be deployed there within the next year or so.

On Monday, the Pentagon formally announced that about 2,800 members of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division will be sent to Afghanistan this spring as part of the conventional forces deployed there. Once he assumes office, Barack Obama is expected to receive recommendations about how fast a drawdown can occur in Iraq – and how many forces can be sent to Afghanistan.

The deployment of the additional Green Berets has not yet been approved, but a senior defense official indicated it was very likely and would be finalized next month.

The deployment would be relatively small, probably only a few hundred individuals at first. Ultimately, other special operations forces, such as marines from Special Operations Command, Air Force special operators, and Navy Seals could be deployed under the plan.

The initial deployment of the Green Berets would expand the size of the Special Forces contingent there by 30 or 40 percent, defense officials say, and represent a significant new commitment to developing and expanding Afghan security forces.

Criticism over plan
However, the proposal is controversial. The plan is being pushed by Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, the so-called war czar under President Bush, who is poised to release a set of recommendations for how to reverse the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan in coming days. Defense officials say General Lute believes the deployment of the Green Berets could go a long way toward making up for a significant shortfall in the number of troops needed in the region.

Yet many within the tightly knit Special Forces community say the Special Forces teams already in use in Afghanistan should be employed far more effectively before any new teams, which number about a dozen men each, are deployed.

"I just don't think it's a very good use of the units if they are not going to be doing combat advising in an effective way," says one Special Forces officer with recent experience in Afghanistan. "I don't know any Special Forces who think that's really what we need over there."

"Textbook" operations for Special Forces dictates that the 12-man teams, known as Operational Detachment Alpha teams, or ODAs, should be paired with units of at least a few hundred Afghan security force soldiers.

But in many cases, the Green Berets are paired with much smaller groups of Afghan forces, sometimes even one-on-one. In other cases, they are used to man checkpoints, say some Special Forces officers.

Critics worry that Lute's plan is to simply send more Special Forces units to Afghanistan without a coherent plan to support them. "Don't just throw ODAs out there as an answer," says another senior officer. "That's just the easy, lazy answer out there."

Poor use of existing forces
There are other gripes with the way the teams now deployed to Afghanistan are being used.

Too few of the Special Forces teams are partnered with Afghan forces for longer than, say, a month at a time, creating an unsustainable and unproductive training relationship that runs counter to Special Forces doctrine.

Special Forces officers blame the problems on a lack of a coherent strategy for using the Green Berets in Afghanistan. Others say some Special Forces teams operate under NATO commanders from other countries and don't know how to employ the teams properly.

Perhaps most significant, Special Forces officers and experts say it would be a waste of time and resources to send additional Special Forces teams to Afghanistan unless there is a "surge" of helicopters, remote-controlled aircraft for surveilling the enemy, and other "enablers" to allow the teams that are there now to be more effective.

Roger Carstens, a retired Special Forces officer who is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington, visited Afghanistan a couple months ago and asked members of the Special Forces community what they thought about "surging" Special Operations Forces.

"Everyone of them said 'no SOF surge,'" he says. "What they need is an enabler surge and enduring partnerships with Afghan military and police units," he says.

Adm. Eric Olson, the senior commander of US Special Operations Command, Tampa, Fla., is expected to convey the concerns of the special operations community to Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of US Central Command.

A new command position
The proposal would also include the creation of a new Special Forces command position, to be filled by a one-star general in Afghanistan this spring, whose job it will be to marshal resources to ensure the Special Forces units are employed properly.

The Afghan National Army, the pride of the country's budding national security apparatus, and the Afghan National Police, which is still seen as largely corrupt and weaker, need help to build up into a larger, more effective force.

Ultimately, the US would like to see at least 134,000 soldiers trained and ready to provide for their own country's security.

But trainers have been hard to come by, and the mix of foreign and US forces has muted the training effort, US defense officials say.
 

Poccington

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To the folk in the know on here, what do y'all think of this "SF surge" proposal?

Are 20 ODA's really needed? Or is it just a case of better utilising the ODA's already in place over there?

Also what do you think of another command slot being opened?
 

surgicalcric

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We dont need another 20 ODA's committed to A-stan when the teams there arent being used appropriately. Simply speaking, throwing numbers at the issue will only change the amount of support needed to continue to not do what needs to be done.

What we need is for senior officers and NCO's to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done instead of whats expedient for their careers. We need to have the leash taken off so we can do what needs to be done. We need for someone to explain to the senior CF leadership that this war wont be won by DA and that its best to let SF take the lead, as we did at the onset of the war. The conventional leadership saw the writing on the wall, that they were quickly being marginalized in this war and now 7 years later we are still having the same discussion as we had shortly after big Army took over...

Then again, we (SF) cant blame the conventional military for everything that has gone wrong. As much as we would like to keep the monkey off our back the cool guy DA stuff has also led us down this path as well as people not wanting to rock the boat. The focus is returning slowly though as we are returning to our specialty: working by, with, and thru.

As for another GO, I think we have too many as it is and unless he will then become the the commander for all SF in Afghanistan I really dont see the need in it, then again what do I know...

my .02

Crip
 

Swill

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The proposal would also include the creation of a new Special Forces command position, to be filled by a one-star general in Afghanistan this spring, whose job it will be to marshal resources to ensure the Special Forces units are employed properly

That doesn't make one GD bit of sense to me.
 

DA SWO

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I think some of the blame for misusing SF has to go to SOCCENT and the local CJSOTF Cdr. Neither USASFC or USASOC determine what the in-theater mission is.

SF is the only "dedicated" FID element we have. Other SOCOM assets (i.e. SEALs) also do FID, but FID isn't their reason for existing, it's secondary. IIRC we have a large Navy leadership presence within the SOCCENT hq. For them (coming out of the NAVSPECWARCOM environment) SF doing DA is no different then SEALs doing FID; just another mission profile.

A surge will not work in Afghanistan; because a surge is a 12-24 month solution. We have to make a 20-30 year committment if we expect them to emerge from the 14th century into the 18th century.
 

Ravage

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I think some of the blame for misusing SF has to go to SOCCENT and the local CJSOTF Cdr. Neither USASFC or USASOC determine what the in-theater mission is.

SF is the only "dedicated" FID element we have. Other SOCOM assets (i.e. SEALs) also do FID, but FID isn't their reason for existing, it's secondary. IIRC we have a large Navy leadership presence within the SOCCENT hq. For them (coming out of the NAVSPECWARCOM environment) SF doing DA is no different then SEALs doing FID; just another mission profile.

A surge will not work in Afghanistan; because a surge is a 12-24 month solution. We have to make a 20-30 year committment if we expect them to emerge from the 14th century into the 18th century.

Isn't also the fact that SOCOM(ander) is a Navy SEAL - so more DA orientated than FID/UW ?
 

Rabid Badger

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We dont need another 20 ODA's committed to A-stan when the teams there arent being used appropriately.

What we need is for senior officers and NCO's to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done instead of whats expedient for their careers. We need to have the leash taken off so we can do what needs to be done. We need for someone to explain to the senior CF leadership that this war wont be won by DA and that its best to let SF take the lead, as we did at the onset of the war.

As for another GO, I think we have too many as it is and unless he will then become the the commander for all SF in Afghanistan I really dont see the need in it, then again what do I know...

my .02

Crip

That doesn't make one GD bit of sense to me.

A 1 Star billet will bring much needed command structure to a force that has been mis-handled by Foreign GO's as well as Conventional GO's from the outset of the GWOT in A-stan.

An SF 1 Star that stays in-country can stand up to a NATO Cmdr and put a boot in his ass and will hold much more weight than, say, an O-6 Grp Commander on a command visit.

20 ODA's is a stretch.....IMHO....crip is correct in cutting the on the ground dogs loose to identify shortcomings now, then deploy asap ODA's to fill those gaps.

Rav....the US Conventional Army form of DA is to ride down the street in MRAP's and armored Hummers, attacking a few HVT's and heading back to the FOB....

SOF lives/breaths/fights with the locals, 'locals' being mentioned can be the 'local' PD, 'local' tribal leader, or 'local' police force....and can be referred to as UW/FID as well as a DA mission if the collected intel says an HVT is available.

Not saying conventional doesn't L/B/F with the locals, just niot at the experience level that the SOF does.

We/SOF had it right back in '01....lessons learned that just keep being re-hashed.....fuksake....:uhh:

:2c:
 

Rabid Badger

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So can we win if SF will still be used as it is being used today ?

We can if we are utilized as we were when the first teams hit the ground in '01.

AND AND AND...if 'other' countries would step up to the plate with their own GD SF and stop hiding behind the hescoes.

McCAffrey AAR

Bottom-Line: Six Assertions

However, the atmosphere of terror cannot be countered by relying mainly on military means. We cannot win through a war of attrition. The economic and political support provided by the international community is currently inadequate to deal with the situation.

:2c:
 

Swill

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A 1 Star billet will bring much needed command structure to a force that has been mis-handled by Foreign GO's as well as Conventional GO's from the outset of the GWOT in A-stan.

An SF 1 Star that stays in-country can stand up to a NATO Cmdr and put a boot in his ass and will hold much more weight than, say, an O-6 Grp Commander on a command visit.

Real issues, but a whole new command position is ultimately just another layer of bureaucracy. Way way way too much as it is. Mission creep isn't the right term... Bureau-creep? Adding Generals and their staffs will only muddy the picture. We need to be going in the other direction. Less Higher (especially for the SOF guys). Can anyone honestly say that we are practicing Unity of Command in that country? :2c:
 

AWP

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Great points, all. I've witnessed ODAs sitting on their asses because they weren't allowed to leave the wire by a risk-adverse commander.

We cannot apply an Iraq-style surge to this place and expect to win.

I firmly believe that if we are to do this the right way that kids in middle school now will have a chance to wear a uniform in country when they enlist. Can our country stomach that commitment?

We need approximately 0 more Fobbits in country, we are awash in them as it is now. Maybe the SOF side is different for support, but I've seen the conventional side and it is overmanned. Having x or y number of troops in country is a misleading number when more then half of them will never leave Bagram or Kandahar.

I try not to think about some of the things I've seen, it saddens and angers me.
 
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