U.S.-Afghan Pact Shows Relationship’s Evolution, Official Says
A special operations agreement U.S. and Afghan officials signed yesterday is part of the "natural evolution" as Afghans take on more security responsibility in Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said today.
A memorandum of understanding that will lead to Afghan forces taking the lead on all special operations missions in Afghanistan is a step forward and marks progress in the transition of security responsibility to Afghan security forces, George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told reporters.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak signed the memorandum in the Afghan capital of Kabul. While the agreement does cover night raids, Little said, it reaches beyond that aspect to all special operations activities in the country.
The agreement "codifies what has been happening for some time -- that is Afghan-led operations," Little said. The night raids have been an effective tool for U.S. and Afghan special operations forces, he added, and the vast majority of the raids are planned and led by Afghans. Afghans are responsible for entering private residences.
Special operations have been highly effective in the past, and today most of such operations conducted in Afghanistan are Afghan-led, Little said.
"Our expectation is that they will continue, and we will work closely to coordinate with the Afghans now that they are in the lead," he said. "We have every expectation that we will continue to pursue [these operations]."
The agreement specifies that special operations will be approved by the Afghan Operational Coordination Group. The operations will be conducted by Afghan forces "with support from U.S. forces in accordance with Afghan laws."
The Afghan coordination group will review and approve all special operations missions. The group will participate in intelligence fusion, monitor mission execution and make notifications to provincial governors. The Afghan security forces will establish regional operational coordination groups.
A bilateral committee co-chaired by Wardak and Allen will ensure coordination between Afghan and U.S. forces.
"The United States is prepared to engage in the full range of support activities for Afghan-led special operations missions," Little said. The support includes providing intelligence, air support, medical evacuation support, security and other means of support.
Even before the agreement, officials said, more than 97 percent of night operations are combined operations involving both coalition and Afghan forces.
Almost 40 percent of night operations are now Afghan-led. About 90 percent of these operations occur without a shot being fired, and less than 1 percent result in civilian casualties.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service